Directed by Robert Lorenz
Written by Randy Brown
How uniquely fitting that a film like Trouble with the Curve should immediately follow something like Moneyball in the chronological history of the baseball movie. After a stirring argument for statistical analysis in baseball, surely the newly curmudgeoned Clint Eastwood, coming off his 2008 curmudgeon debut in Gran Torino, could not stand for such tomfoolery in the game of baseball. Thinking of Trouble with the Curve as a direct response to the success and philosophy of Moneyball certainly does it no favors, but it also makes for an interesting comparison. On its surface, and evaluated on its own, Trouble with the Curve is harmless, if not a little idealistic, predictable and impetuous.
Gus (Clint Eastwood) has been a talent scout for the Atlanta Braves organization for what seem like ever. But in this day and age of sabermetric statistics, the assistant to the GM (Matthew Lillard) prefers number crunching to boots on the ground. So when the team has the second overall pick in the upcoming draft, Gus is tasked with scouting a hot young player in his territory, a player the Braves would like to take. But his old age has harmed his eye sight, bringing his successful, yet somewhat estranged, lawyer daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), on the road with him to watch after him. Meanwhile, the Red Sox, who hold the first pick, have sent their hot young scout Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher whom Gus signed, as well, and who is smitten with the independent and baseball savvy Mickey.
Seeing this in such close proximity to Moneyball really brings out the comparisons, and how Trouble with the Curve goes the complete opposite way of Moneyball. As I said in my review of that film, I think there is validity in both philosophies. The game needs analytics and scouts in order to function at its best. But trying to examine Trouble with the Curve in comparison to something it’s not isn’t fair, so I will try to avoid doing just that. However, Trouble with the Curve‘s, well, troubles, run a little deeper than philosophical difference with Moneyball. While the film is completely innocuous, as I said before, this harmless, cheesy, predictable story can be slightly offensive given the otherwise interesting premise. No one ever said you couldn’t make a romantic comedy, or a horror film, or any other genre piece, but I do take offense when the genre is done poorly.
Trouble with the Curve is a poor romance story between Johnny and Mickey, which is a shame since I like Justin Timberlake, I like Amy Adams, and I like the idea of a baseball man falling for a baseball girl. But the delivery of the story is almost sickeningly standard that it feels like a 6th inning fastball from a 5th starter who is gased at the end of an outing. There is just nothing on it. Sure, it will get by some hitter, and might even garner an out, but it’s not the type of stuff that will last much longer (does that metaphor work? I’m not sure it does, but let’s say it does). The other story, that of Gus, is also tired. We’ve seen Clint Eastwood’s curmudgeon before, and it works far better in Gran Torino than it does here. Here it’s just flat out annoying, and in some cases a little ridiculous (like Gus’ attempt at backing his car out of his garage).
I appreciate the love shown to scouts here, and even the idea of an aging scout and his estranged daughter making nice and finding top notch baseball prospects. The scout’s story is one not really seen in baseball movies. The Scout obviously tackles that subject a little bit, but manages to focus on the least interesting aspects of the job. Trouble with the Curve at least gets those things right, which is what makes the lackluster romance side story all the more disappointing. Trouble with the Curve is the type of convenient story construction that may appeal to the greatest amount of people, but which also sets a ceiling which it otherwise has no hopes of surpassing.