Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Trouble With The Curve”

So, I ended up going to see “Trouble with the Curve” today, which was nice. I don’t really get to go out and watch movies too terribly often. I’m usually too busy or too not-wanting-to-watch-it-alone-y. I was planning on watching this one alone, actually, but a friend of mine was there so we sat together.

…I don’t think I should need to say this, but there are spoilers, so.

The movie focuses on three different people, though I’m not sure focuses is quite the right word… we’ll get to that. First is Gus (Clint Eastwood), the stereotypical gruff old man who refuses to use computers and has really odd habits. He’s a baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. Only problem is, his eyesight is going, likely from glaucoma or macular degeneration. But he’s stubborn, so he goes out to do his job and live his life, despite tripping over tables and running the car into the garage when he backs out. Then, there’s his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), as in Mantle, a lawyer working her butt off to be the next partner, and only female partner, at her law firm. She clearly has some issues with her father, as they don’t ever seem to be able to talk about anything serious or emotional, due almost entirely to Gus. Finally, we have Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher for the Braves that Gus scouted years ago. After he blew his rotator cup, Johnny was traded to the Boston Red Sox, where he now works as a scout with hopes of becoming the voice in the box.

Gus’ friend (and boss, I think?) Pete (John Goodman) is concerned with Gus’ behavior lately and thinks something is wrong. He calls Mickey to enlist her help. When she discovers his eyesight issue, which he refuses to get treatment for, she goes up to North Carolina to help him with his scouting, where they’re scouting a cocksure (and, frankly, egotistical prick) young hitter named Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill). The equally cocky and dickish Braves scout Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard), who thinks all one needs to determine skill is to look at one’s statistics, is trying to oust both Gus and Pete, as well as make sure Bo is the Braves’ No. 1 pick, even though the Red Sox have the first pick.

Once it throws the influential characters into the same North Carolina plot, the movie kind of loses track of exactly which story it wants to tell. None of the plots ever feel like the leading plot. There’s the emotional problems between Mickey and Gus, the romantic growth between Mickey and Johnny, Gus’ eyesight slowly fading and getting him into trouble, Mickey’s rivalry with another lawyer, Todd, trying to get the partnership, Mickey’s relationship with a third lawyer (which is ended in a heavy-handed “symbolic” way, where they look good on paper, like Gentry, but don’t work out in real life)… The first is probably the worst, as it tends to bounce between extremes of “We’re alright, not perfect, but doing well together” and “We can’t be around one another.” Sure, sometimes that happens in real life… I should know. But the movie does it a bit sloppily.

Another problem is how heavy-handed the film is. You know from the beginning that Gentry and Sanderson are massive douches that will not get what they want. You know who the good guys are. And you know from “subtle” hints way early on that don’t return until the film’s end that the oldest son of the woman who owns the run down motel Gus, Mickey and Johnny are all staying at, Rigo Sanchez, will be the foil in Gentry’s path to glory.

The film is predictable and sloppy, and has some trouble with realistic dialogue at times. It seriously seems stilted and overplayed many times. However, there are some great witty lines, mostly for Johnny and some for Gus, that do well, especially in scenes where Johnny flirts with Mickey. And Mickey and Gus both have some solid emotional moments, particularly when Gus is forced to recall his wife or reveal to Mickey why he left her with her uncle at age 6. The acting is solid, the biggest problem is, I think, the writing. There’s a scene where Johnny is in a bar and starts acting, loudly, like the announcer at an old baseball game. And everyone in the bar applauds his performance. Maybe I’ve just been to the wrong bars, but most bars I’ve been to wouldn’t clap for a loud guy shouting about baseball. Maybe football down here, but I really don’t see that happening either.

Now, this was Randy Brown’s first professional gig as a writer, according to IMDb, so it’s pretty impressive that he got this produced with so many big stars. And it’s not a bad film, per se. It’s just your standard feel-good, popcorn-munching, movie-name-dropping summer drama flick. The jackwagons see things blow up in their faces, the good guys have things going right for them (though explanations are left dangling on some things), it’s like a Disney “true story” film that isn’t “Cool Runnings.”

All in all, I’d say it’s a 50-50 shot on whether or not it’s worth your money at the matinee. I’d say it’s worth a purchase at a bargain bin on DVD if you have some older/more mature kids (there is some amount of cussing) that like baseball and just want a movie to watch and fill in some time. Not a great movie, but not bad.

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