Review • Predictable baseball tale aided by actors' chemistry.
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Think of "Trouble With the Curve" as the anti-"Moneyball," a sappy but likable story set in the old-school world of baseball scouts that puts experience and instinct ahead of statistics and algorithms.
And when experience and instinct are embodied by Clint Eastwood, which way do you think this pitch is going to break?
Eastwood portrays Gus, an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves who's trying to hide from his bosses that his eyesight is failing. Gus' supervisor, Pete (John Goodman), hoping to help Gus get through one last scouting trip in the Carolinas, calls Gus' daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), a high-powered Atlanta lawyer, to help her dad out. And, even though Mickey's got a major case pending and she's not really on speaking terms with her dad, she agrees.
When Gus isn't checking out a high-school phenom (Joe Massingill), he's fending off the next generation of baseball scouts. One is Phil (Matthew Lillard), back at Braves HQ, a fast-rising front-office guy who trusts computer readouts more than Gus' observations. Another is Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former prospect of Gus' who blew out his shoulder and has landed a scouting job with the Red Sox. When Johnny isn't looking over the phenom, he's making time with the uptight Mickey.
First-time director Robert Lorenz, who has produced Eastwood's directing efforts for the past decade, doesn't avoid the cornball elements of rookie screenwriter Randy Brown's script. In fact, he embraces them, playing up the sweet-and-sour relationship between Gus and Mickey as it progresses from comic bickering to heartfelt emotional catharsis. There aren't many surprises, but Lorenz makes the familiar as bright and sunny as he can.
The fun of "Trouble With the Curve" is in the charming byplay between the increasingly crotchety Eastwood and the salty temperament of Adams. Eastwood's persona is so well-established, so ingrained in our shared movie memory bank, that it's refreshing to see somebody like Adams who adds some steel to her usual industrial-strength perkiness dare to go head-to-head with him. Together, they make a fearsome double-play combo.
'Trouble With the Curve'
Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams make a charming father-daughter duo in this tale of a baseball scout and his estranged child.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Friday, Sept. 21.
Rating • PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking
Running time • 111 minutes.