Recent events lend unintentional humor to one sequence in Trouble with the Curve, in which Clint Eastwood speaks aloud to his wife’s headstone in a cemetery.
It’s an innocuous moment in an otherwise mundane drama about redemption and family bonding in which Eastwood plays an irascible baseball scout forced to get his priorities in order.
Fans looking for the next baseball movie, however, should keep in mind that the on-field action is limited in this latest usage of sports as a metaphor for life.
Eastwood plays Gus, a longtime respected scout with the Atlanta Braves who refuses to consider retirement even as undiagnosed vision problems have hampered his abilities. The Braves consider forcing him and his old-school evaluation methods out in favor of new blood.
His messy family life consists of a volatile relationship with Mickey (Amy Adams), his estranged daughter who has carved out a successful career as a lawyer. At the urging Gus’ supportive colleague (John Goodman), Mickey tags along as Gus scouts one of the country’s hottest hitting prospects.
Their time together causes friction on both sides before they encounter Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher who takes an interest in Mickey and might be the person to smooth out their hard feelings.
At 82, Eastwood doesn’t act much anymore, preferring to focus his energy behind the camera. It’s been almost two decades since he appeared on screen in a project he didn’t also direct. So perhaps he agreed to break that streak with this film as a favor to one of his longtime producers, Robert Lorenz, who makes his directorial debut.
That’s not to say Eastwood phones in his performance. Beneath the expected stubborn growling is a complex character confronting some realistic aging issues.
Although it’s not exactly original, the dynamic between Eastwood and Adams is the best thing about Trouble with the Curve. Much of the script by rookie Randy Brown is formulaic and predictable, including the backroom baseball negotiations and such, which feel like a cut-rate knockoff of Moneyball.
Lorenz showcases some promise as a filmmaker, even if he doesn’t take many chances either visually or structurally. Such is the case with the film, which is breezy and amusing, yet in terms of genuine emotional impact, it misses the strike zone.
Rated PG-13, 111 minutes.