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'Curve' no home run, but hard hitting

By Michelle F. Solomon, Contributing writer
Published On: Sep 21 2012 02:36:29 PM CDT
Amy Adams, Clint Eastwood in Trouble with the Curve

Warner Bros. Pictures

Like a good baseball team that rewards you with a big win after a slow start, "Trouble with the Curve" justifies its existence by giving its audiences moments to savor and a wrapped-up-nice-with-a-bow ending.

Clint Eastwood has gone from Dirty Harry to Grumbling Gus in twilight roles of his career, but the curmudgeonly characters maintain that Eastwood spark, which have made the now-82-year-old a legend in American cinema. In "Trouble," he plays Gus Lobel, a famous baseball scout who has drafted some of the biggest names in the game. He likes his life. He lives alone, eats Spam out of a can for breakfast, and orders pizza topped with Canadian bacon to be delivered by 10 a.m. Not ready to be benched, he's determined to keep his eye on the ball even though his eyes are failing. His doctor tells him he has glaucoma and macular degeneration, which won't come as a surprise to moviegoers after he stumbles over a coffee table in his living room, and has more dents in his classic Ford Mustang than if he'd been in a demolition derby.

His daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), is a workaholic lawyer who is trying to make partner in her firm. Despite their rocky relationship, Mickey is worried about her dad, and so is Gus's best friend, Peter, who also works in the front office of the Braves. Everyone is worried about Gus but Gus himself.

The make-or-break of Gus's storied career is a scouting trip to North Carolina, where two teams, the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves, are vying for the first round draft pick. They are scouting Bo Gentry (Joe Massingil), a high school phenom who everyone believes is the next Albert Pujols. Both Mickey and Pete know that if Gus can't pull off this scouting trip, this might be his last inning. Mickey decides to visit her dad on location, much to his discontent. It turns out, though, that despite their differences, the two are a lot alike, and Mickey is able to be Gus' second set of eyes at the baseball field.

To add a romantic interest to the mix, a pitcher-now-turned scout, Johnny (Justin Timberlake), enters the picture. He has a history with Gus after being originally recruited by him. Johnny is immediately taken with Mickey, who can pound downs shots of whiskey and spout off baseball trivia better than anyone Johnny's ever met.

But there's more to "Trouble with the Curve" than meets the eye, at least from a behind the scenes standpoint. No one has directed Clint Eastwood other than Clint Eastwood since 1993's "In the Line of Fire" until now. "Trouble" is directed by Robert Lorenz, who has worked with Eastwood for almost 20 years, when he was assistant director on "The Bridges of Madison County." For Eastwood's last 12 films, Lorenz has been his producing partner and shares a few Oscar nominations with the film veteran. This is, however, the first time Lorenz has directed.

Perhaps being around Eastwood has given Lorenz the same directorial touch that we've seen in Eastwood's films (this one has a bit of the same flavor as Eastwood's 2004 "Million Dollar Baby"), and, most likely, Eastwood has imparted some of his own ideas into the film.

This really is an Eastwood film through and through from the slow pacing to the thorough examination of the characters (moreso with Gus and Mickey than with the one-dimensional Johnny).

The script by Randy Brown has its share of clich├ęs and predictable moments, but it also provides situations that are relatable to audiences: children as caretakers to parents who don't want to be taken care of, and the struggle between career and family.

While "Trouble with the Curve" doesn't hit it out the park, it does have its share of winning moments, plus the pairing of Eastwood and Adams is major league.