Courtesy of WARNER BROS
Despite an excellent cast and appealing (if utterly predictable) chemistry between Amy Adams (“The Muppets”) and Justin Timberlake (“In Time”), the baseball-themed comedy-drama “Trouble with the Curve” is a disappointing strikeout.
First-time screenwriter Randy Brown’s lazy, cliché-ridden script puts forward blatant themes like “Old people are grumpy!” and “Female lawyers are uptight!” with the subtlety of a jackhammer.
Directed by Robert Lorenz, a frequent producer for Clint Eastwood’s films, the film oscillates somewhat randomly between a solemn father-daughter drama, a true “inside baseball” narrative in the style of last year’s Oscar-nominated “Moneyball” and a frothy, meet-cute comedy.
Eastwood (“Gran Torino”), sans empty chair, monotonously grunts and grumbles through his performance as Gus Lobel, a crotchety Atlanta Braves recruiter who’s past his prime, to say the least. His daughter Mickey (a characteristically feisty Adams) is an aspiring partner at a law firm, but her ambitions are waylaid by her concern for her father in his state of escalating blindness. Against Gus’ wishes, Mickey accompanies her dad on a recruiting trip to North Carolina, where she serves as his eyes at the baseball games and catches the attention of a charming pitcher-turned-recruiter Johnny (Timberlake). Tensions mount. Sparks fly. The critic yawns.
This film’s subject matter is reminiscent of last year’s “Moneyball.” But while the Oscar-winning film developed an unlikely partnership between the characters played by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, “Trouble” settles for the played-out father-daughter dynamic. It’s decently performed by Eastwood and Adams but lacks a fresh angle. The daughter is concerned for her father but bitter about his past misdeeds, and the father pushes the daughter to pursue ambitions that are beyond her interest.
“Trouble with the Curve” plays on the strengths of the actors, diluting them into one-dimensional stereotypes with Eastwood as the incessantly nasty widower, Adams as the occupationally capable but socially awkward adult and Timberlake as the suave, lightly comedic love interest. The talents of the actors fail to elevate the shoddy material.
The film struggles to balance the disparate plot threads. The baseball issue is given short shrift with insufficient time for the audience to invest in Gus’ potential recruitment pick. The baseball machinations feel rote rather than engaging, and the resolution is almost astoundingly idiotic. It’s as if the screenwriter just decided that the story needed to end regardless of logic.
Meanwhile, the film’s most pleasurable component, the budding romance between Mickey and Johnny, loses credibility when Timberlake disappears from large sections of the film, presumably to continue biding his time before he releases a new album. A film with a sharper focus on this dynamic might have been more enjoyable, but one clogging number and a few rounds of baseball trivia do not make a romance. Instead, endless references to Gus’ elderliness abound. He eats Spam for breakfast! He doesn’t understand cell phones! He’s old!
Eastwood’s fingerprint on a project is usually a sign of its credibility for Oscar consideration, or at least its quality. Sadly, “Trouble with the Curve” falls short of this standard.