21 September 2012

Trouble with the Curve

Clint Eastwood, right, and Amy Adams are shown in a scene from "Trouble with the Curve."

The trouble with "Trouble with the Curve" is it feels outdated, as behind the times as co-workers accuse Gus, an octogenarian baseball scout with failing eyesight, of being.

But because Clint Eastwood plays Gus with his usual steely-eyed authority, and because his chief critic is a sniveling villain played by Matthew Lillard, we are expected to overlook that thought.

Gus, a longtime scout for the Atlanta Braves, pores over box scores in newspapers and frequently hits the road to evaluate young talent with his own eyes—even when those eyes aren't working anymore. The Lillard character prefers to use statistics and—gasp!—a computer. Though he had a different name, better actor and superior script, he essentially was the hero of last year's "Moneyball." Gus is the kind of dinosaur we saw ushered out in that film.

"Trouble with the Curve" asks us to ignore the reality of the sport.

Aha, you might be thinking, it's not really a baseball movie; it's a family drama, a story about a father and daughter.

Yeah, but that doesn't work so much either.

Take away the racism from Eastwood's "Gran Torino" (2008) character, and that's Gus. (You have to wonder why this was the role that got him to act for the first time in four years.) Amy Adams is Gus' cliche of a daughter, Mickey, a career-driven attorney with whom he has a strained relationship.

Fearing for her father's health, Mickey takes a break from work in the middle of a major case to join him on a scouting trip. Along the way, they meet up with Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake, the only actor in the movie who seems like he's having any fun), a former pitcher Gus once scouted and signed, now a scout for the Boston Red Sox. I'll give you one guess as to what happens between Johnny and Mickey.

Robert Lorenz, who has worked under Eastwood multiple times as an assistant director, directs with the same confident, leisurely pace and subdued tone as his mentor. (Eastwood isn't directing himself onscreen for the first time since 1993's "In the Line of Fire.") It remains a comfort even when the material isn't up to par.

Though he also has produced films with Eastwood, this marks Lorenz's directorial debut, and it also is the first screenplay for writer Randy Brown.

With the star also producing, it's hard to think of this as anything other than a Clint Eastwood film. Many times, Eastwood has addressed his advancing age in movies, but this is the first time he has seemed out of touch.

Greg’s Grade: C-

(Rated PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking. 111 minutes.)

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