Trouble with the Curve

“Trouble with the Curve” begins with Clint Eastwood standing at a toilet, trying to sweet-talk the pee out of his bladder. I can’t say the film gets much better after that, but I can say that this is the only scene in which Eastwood speaks directly to his penis.

As you may have heard in recent news reports, Eastwood is very old. His character in this flavorless, unsubtle dramatic comedy, an irascible bastard named Gus, is also very old. Gus has been a talent scout for the Atlanta Braves more or less since the invention of baseball, driving up and down the East Coast in search of promising young players. While his colleagues have started using things like “computers” and “statistics” to compile their data and make the bulk of their decisions, Gus still does it the old-fashioned way. You think a computer can tell you what’s in a pitcher’s heart or a batter’s soul?? As far as Gus is concerned, you can take your “Moneyball” and your Internet and your fancy math numbers and cram ’em where the sun don’t shine (e.g., Clint Eastwood’s recalcitrant urethra).

Gus, his eyesight failing and his cranky stubbornness losing its charm, is rapidly becoming a dinosaur in the scouting business. His faithful friend Pete (John Goodman) is the only one left to stick up for him at the Braves’ head office; the younger executives, typified by a smarmy jerk played by Matthew Lillard, think it’s time to put him out to pasture.

At Pete’s request, Gus’ daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), a workaholic attorney (is there any other kind?) joins her dad on his current scouting expedition in North Carolina. Mickey grew up loving baseball and wishing Gus would show her some affection. They bicker constantly, primarily because Gus is as intractable and inflexible as his own pee-hole.

Seldom have I seen a movie so adamantly opposed to nuance. Every character is starkly Good or Bad, every line of dialogue on the nose, every motivation carefully spelled out. Mickey will make partner at her law firm if she wins the big case she’s currently working on. She has a dull boyfriend whose only function is to be replaced by someone more interesting, a young talent scout played by Justin Timberlake. The player Gus is looking at is an arrogant showboater, while the humble immigrant family that runs the local motel has a teenage son who’s a pretty good pitcher (HINT HINT). Gus’ way of doing things must be vindicated, and those who would dare suggest he modernize his technique must be vilified and humiliated.

Written by first-timer Randy Brown and directed by Eastwood’s long-time producer and assistant director Robert Lorenz, “Trouble with the Curve” is the movie equivalent of a slow pitch straight down the middle: predictable, easy, and hardly worth the effort required to hit it. What it is not, curiously enough, is a baseball movie. The joy of the sport is never depicted or even acknowledged. The gradual repairing of Gus and Mickey’s relationship is the focus, but good luck finding anything relatable there, either. To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Brown and Lorenz had never seen a baseball game or witnessed an interaction between a human father and his adult daughter.

D+ (1 hr., 51 min.; PG-13, moderate profanity, one F-word, a little mild sexuality.)

Reprinted from Pajiba.