Now available on DVD, “Trouble with the Curve” stars Clint Eastwood in what may be perceived as a reprise of his role in 2008’s “Gran Torino.” At 82, playing a grumpy old man for Eastwood comes as easily as talking to an empty chair, though here the results are significantly less embarrassing and more entertaining. He is aided by an especially strong performance by Amy Adams, whose scenes with her co-star are the best part of the movie. She’s also good at the give-and-take with Justine Timberlake, who plays the romantic interest, though the onscreen chemistry between them never quite clicks.
The Eastwood persona is major league baseball scout Gus Lobel, a longtime employee of the Atlanta Braves who has built a reputation on his instinct for talent. Beyond that, however, he takes a personal interest in the kids he has recommended to the front office. He represents the opposite side of the sabermetric coin lauded in “Moneyball,” the movie that told the story of Billy Beane’s reliance on statistics to rebuild the Oakland A’s.
However, Gus’s best days are behind him, in part because of the failing eyesight that he refuses to admit or correct. When his friend and supervisor, Pete (John Goodman), questions his health, Gus proudly refuses his offer of aid. And when Gus’s daughter, Mickey (as in Mantle), is dragooned into accompanying and helping him on a crucial scouting trip, Gus’s ire hits new highs.
As Mickey, Adams gives as good as she gets, both as a character and as an actor. A whip smart attorney with a shot at making partner in a big firm, she resents her widower dad’s having left her with a relative in her early teens, then sending her off to boarding school. Mickey loves the game and treasured the scouting trips with Gus, but what she has left to show for her love of the game and her dad is bitterness—along with a baseball-encyclopedic knowledge of the sport’s history.
This comes in handy when, during the trip with Gus, they meet Johnny (Timberlake), a pitcher whom Gus signed but who subsequently blew out his arm and is now scouting for the Red Sox. Undaunted by Amy’s sharp tongue—and attracted to her good looks and baseball savvy—Johnny perseveres and, um, scores with her.
On the way to a perfectly predictable and somewhat forced resolution, Randy Brown’s intelligent script offers sundry pleasures. The wit and sharp edges of the father/daughter exchanges and, to a lesser extent, those of Adams and Timberlake consistently amuse and entertain. The direction of first-timer Robert Lorenz, a longtime Eastwood associate director and producer, is not up to that of his star, whose “less is more” style would be welcome here. Some of the guys on the other side of Gus and Mickey are caricatures, rather than credible characters. To his credit, however, he has surrounded Eastwood with some notable screen veterans in small parts, such as Gus’s fellow scouts and Mickey’s attorney bosses.
“Trouble with the Curve” is rated “PG-13,” largely for language, though there’s nothing here to offend. Whether teens will take to a film starring an octogenarian in a film devoid of “action” and special effects is, of course, questionable. If they do, they’ll get to see a screen legend in fine form in an old-fashioned comedy with some bite to it. I’m looking forward to renting it.