This weekend in “Trouble with the Curve” Clint Eastwood is playing a character he’s never tried before—sort of. He’s a baseball scout who brings his daughter along as he recruits new players. It’s his first baseball movie, but it isn’t the first time he’s played this kind of role—a man on the proverbial one last job.
The icon plays Gus, a legendary (read: old) Atlanta Braves scout. He’s regarded as a dinosaur by his colleagues, who mock him for his old school, anti-“Moneyball” approach—travelling to games, reading stats in the newspaper—as they sit behind their computer screens gathering information. His job and legacy rest on recruiting batting hotshot Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill) but old age and failing eyesight are slowing him down. His boss and oldest (and maybe only) friend Pete (John Goodman) guilts Gus’s estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), named after Mickey Mantle, to accompany him on the road. It may be Gus’s last scouting trip and his last chance to patch things up with the daughter he left in the metaphorical bleachers when she was a young girl.
“The Trouble with the Curve” is the kind of harmless, predictable movie that succeeds despite the story. Pretty much everything that happens is telegraphed long in advance, the characters are the kind of people who exist only in the movies and like its lead actor, it feels like a relic from another time.
And that, in some ways, is a good thing. There isn’t a cynical bone in its body. It is a straightforward story that instead of relying on finely writ characters or unusual situations, uses star power to elevate it from “Grumpy Old Men” territory.
The Clintiness of it earns it a recommend. The iconic actor has never been shy about embracing his… er… veteran status on screen. Since “Unforgiven” he’s been acting his age, and now at age 82 he’s acting like the grandfather he is in real life, terrible jokes and all. “Get out of here before I have a heart attack trying to kill,” is a line that would have stuck in Dirty Harry’s throat, but here it’s funny with just a hint of menace.
Clint is funny, gruff and even lip-quiveringly emotional. Continuing his newfound habit of speaking to inanimate objects he does a monologue with a gravestone that is as cliché as anything thing we’ve seen in that wheelhouse, but somehow he makes it work.
As for the supporting cast, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake have good chemistry, Matthew Lillard is an easy-to-dislike smarm-bucket and John Goodman is as comfortable as a well-worn in baseball mitt, but make no mistake, none of this would matter without the Big C at the helm.
The trouble with “Trouble with the Curve” isn’t the curves—there aren’t any, story wise, anyway—it’s that it is too by-the-book. Luckily a combo of Clint and some good old-fashioned sentimentality save it in the final innings.