Trouble with the Curve plays like Moneyball in reverse. In an age when baseball is ruled by statistics, formulas and new-fangled computers, elderly baseball scout Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) eschews all forms of modern technology (aside from his precious flat-screen TV). He instead uses his gut to make decisions about which players have “got it.” Still, younger, brasher scouts with their noses glued to their laptop screens are trying to edge him out, though his cohorts tell us over and over again that Gus is amazing. His boss, Pete (John Goodman), assures us that “Gus could spot talent from an airplane.” Well, apparently not, considering he’s losing his sight and refuses to get medical attention because he’s too committed to finishing out the scouting season.
The curmudgeon routine, with Eastwood fumbling around his home, knocking over and subsequently breaking tables, tires so quickly that by the time you learn that he’s desperately in need of Flomax you’re ready to scream, “We get it! He’s old!” He was obviously attempting to recreate his performance from Gran Torino, but his grumpy-old-man routine is absurdly over the top. Just when you think there’s no more to Gus than resentment, you find out he’s also carrying around a deep, dark secret about Mickey, his daughter (yes, she was named after center fielder Mickey Mantle). Gus’s secret is supposed to explain why he is such a grouch but instead adds another layer of trite drivel. Mickey (Amy Adams), now in her early thirties, is a high-powered attorney at an Atlanta law firm up for a promotion to partner. Adams plays Mickey with all the naivete she exhibited in Junebug, but without any of the steeliness she needs to portray a woman who has spent her life in a man’s world, between baseball and her law firm. Justin Timberlake is her love interest, a Gus-discovery-turned-scout for the Red Sox with the most horrendous Boston accent since Julianne Moore on 30 Rock. He serves no purpose other than an outlet for Mickey’s daddy issues (because it’s totally healthy to date someone who does the same job and frequents the same bars as your father). At least he isn’t a never-ending source of cheeseball one-liners—that role is reserved for Gus and his old-man posse.
Mickey so desperately seeks the approval of her father that she follows him up the coast to scout a high school baseball prodigy. The player, Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), is a huge jerk with no redeeming qualities, like all of the villains in Curve. He shouts at his teammates on the bus to shut up because he’s busy “visualizing” and rudely yells at a snack vendor to toss him some peanuts. Bo is shocked when his classmate lands the snack perfectly in his strike zone from about sixty feet away (which we are reminded is the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate). If it sounds like foreshadowing, that’s because it is. When it comes to leading the audience, Curve has neither tact nor grace. Some clues are given so early and resolved so late that you’ve completely forgotten about them, while others offer ridiculously instant payoff.
Switching between family drama, romantic comedy, and sports flick, Curve is about as lost as Gus without his glasses. The film can’t decide what it wants to be, which makes the fact that it moves at a snail’s pace even more unbearable. Each and every plot device is painfully predictable, especially the parallel references to the title: Bo can’t hit curve balls, and Gus wrecks his car in (you guessed it!) a curve. Full of bad baseball puns, Trouble with the Curve beats us over the head with cliched messages about family, happiness, and relying on your instincts, but it never manages to get on base.