Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Trouble with the Curve (2012) - Movie Review

I have a feeling Gus Lobel would love to tell those Moneyball guys to shove it!

Clint Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, a lifelong baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves.  Age is catching up with him and his eyesight is fading fast, but can't admit it or he's out of a job.  The organization is losing faith in him anyway, in favor of scouting players using stats and modern technology.  Gus is a purist that believes you certain things you simply can't know about a player by looking at a bunch of numbers. He prefers to rely on his senses and instincts.  I got a distinct anti-Moneyball sentiment from Trouble with the Curve, and if it comes down to a fight, my money will always be on Dirty Harry.

The upcoming draft has a huge talent the team wants as their No. 1 pick.  Gus goes back out the road to scout this kid and to prove he can still do the job.  His oldest friend, played by John Goodman, urges Gus' daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to go along with him and make sure he doesn't screw up.

Oh, and Justin Timberlake is in this, too.  I almost forgot as they establish his character in an early scene, but then he doesn't appear again for a good 15-20 minutes, which really made me wonder why he was in the movie.  You learn that he's a former player that Gus once scouted and is now a scout himself for the Red Sox.  He and Gus seemed to have a close, almost father/son, relationship, but it's never really explored, which seemed like a missed opportunity considering the family dynamics of the film.  Naturally, he immediately has the hots for Mickey, and who can blame him, but the way his character came in and out of the film it felt he was thrown in there because they felt the movie needed a love interest.  It didn't help that it seemed that he was a little too immature for Amy Adams, and that's partially due to the fact that I know she's 38 while he's 31.  It didn't seem like the most natural pairing.  This is nothing personally against Justin Timberlake though, and I do think that he and Adams had good chemistry.

I'm getting off track, but I felt the main problem with the movie is that, once again, it's a movie that didn't quite know what it wanted to be, so it felt a little scatter-shot and uneven at times.  Is this a baseball movie?  A family drama?  Is it a romantic comedy?  I would have been fine with a movie about a stubborn, work-driven man and his stubborn, career-driven daughter reconnecting and finding some common ground over baseball.  Instead we got something that felt a little all over the place, and it suffered from having too many ideas going on.  As the movie is almost two hours, it would have benefit from a little more focus.

Another thing that hurts the film is how predictable it is.  You pretty much see where things are going to go from the outset and they constantly foreshadow plot points.  It's a minor complaint as it's not like I was expecting twists, but certain things just felt too obvious.  The conclusion was way too tidy, with every little thing being resolved by the end, and the conclusion was unsatisfying as a result.

Now we get to the strength of the film: the cast and performances.  Clint Eastwood gives a great, emotional performance   When it starts, he's the cranky and crotchety old man we've come to expect, but early on he has a very sweet and emotional scene, and it shows that there's some sadness there and more to him.  His back and forth between Amy Adams is both funny and heartfelt.  They really make you believe that she's a chip off the old block.  Both are overly focused on their work and push people away.  When you have a great actors like this, they are able to pull back just a bit, so that it doesn't feel melodramatic, which was another thing I appreciated.  They could have gone for a manipulative tear jerker, but thankfully didn't.

The rest of the supporting cast is great as well.  John Goodman is always a welcome sight.  Plus, you have a nice performance by Matthew Lillard, as a hot shot exec that you just want to see get his in the end. The T-1000 (Robert Patrick) is in this as well.  Justin Timberlake's performance was fine, even though I felt like he was just playing Justin Timberlake again.

This was a good first effort from director Robert Lorenz and writer Randy Brown.  Lorenz was smart to get out of the way of his actors and let them just do their thing.  Again, I think the main issue here is that he didn't try to reign in Brown's script a bit.  There were too many subplots and most weren't developed quite enough to have the impact they should have, and some felt like they really didn't need to be in the movie.  Another positive is that it's a much funnier movie than I was expecting, even though some of the humor felt a little easy, maybe even a little cheesy at times. The audience seemed to be really enjoying it, so maybe it was just me.

Overall, Trouble with the Curve is a charming movie that should please most audiences.  You have great performances and chemistry from the actors and a good balance of humor and emotional moments.  The drawback is the movie's predictability and lack of focus.  Whether you're a baseball fan or just want to see a nice family drama with some heart, it's an enjoyable film.  It's nothing you need to rush out and see though.  It's a good matinee or rental.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars

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