Trouble With the Curve is a movie with no curveballs, every plot point is visible miles away. Yet Curve is undemanding entertainment, a baseball movie that’s easy to spend time with, even if you know next to nothing about the game.
This is mostly because of its stars. In Curve, Clint Eastwood plays crotchety Gus Lobel as a variant of his last outing as an actor, i.e. Gran Torino’s grouchy Walt Kowalski. He is someone who keeps the world at a distance, as much because he likes his space, as to conceal a rather more sentimental interior.
Gus and his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) are almost estranged. She is a smart, hardworking lawyer on the verge of making partner at her uppity law firm. She tries hard to keep in touch with Gus, but can’t break through his obstinately cranky veneer.
Gus is an old-school career scout for the Atlanta Braves. But Gus’ approach of listening, looking and going with his gut is threatened by failing eyesight and advancing technology.
It’s a flip version of last year’s acclaimed baseball film, Moneyball where the Computer Nerd was the good guy. Here he is the villain, a certain Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard), who thinks field knowledge about the game can be surpassed by number-crunching statisticians. Will he be proven wrong? With Eastwood as his adversary, what do you think?
Gus’ old pal Pete (John Goodman) convinces Mickey that dad needs help. She puts her career on the line and joins him in North Carolina — where baseball scouts are converging to check out the potentially explosive talent of an obnoxious schoolboy, Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill). We quickly realise that Mickey has inherited her father’s understanding of — and passion for — the game.
If Gus snarls unhappily at seeing her, not so the Red Sox scout Johnny (Justin Timberlake). Turns out he was once a star pitcher — discovered by Gus himself — whose potential was lost to sports injuries. He focusses more on chasing an unwilling Mickey than the scouting job, which he sees as a temporary filler till his promised sportscaster gig.
Though Eastwood doesn't direct, Curve’s moviemakers have worked often with him — Director Robert Lorenz as his producer and assistant director and Tom Stern as cinematographer. Unsurprisingly, they pay homage to Clintwood’s directorial style — the unhurried unfolding of a story, the focus on interpersonal relationships, a stylistic simplicity without flourishes.
However, Curve lacks what is best about Eastwood as a director: moral ambiguities and an inner complexity that fuels the economical storytelling.
Charisma and charm are what the leading trio have in plenty whether it is leathery-faced Clintwood at age 82 or vivacious, smooth-cheeked Adams or a stubbly Timberlake. Given the chemistry between the characters you wished director Lorenz and scriptwriter Randy Brown had given them a better script to play with; if the actors are on top of their particular games, the playing field is a very average one.