Judge Clark Douglas tends to struggle with fastballs. Well, any kind of pitch, really.
Whatever life throws at you.
"Get out of here before I have a heart attack trying to kill you."
Facts of the Case
Gus (Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby) has been the Atlanta Braves' most reliable scout for decades. Over the years, he's brought in the likes of Dale Murphy, Phil Niekro, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones and many others. However, Gus has reached his twilight years and his direct superior (Matthew Lillard, The Descendants) thinks it might be time to, "put him out to pasture." To make matters worse, Gus has recently begun experiencing vision problems which prevent him from being able to do his job well. At the urging of Gus' loyal friend Pete (John Goodman, The Big Lebowski), Gus' embittered daughter Mickey (Amy Adams, Junebug) agrees to accompany her father on a scouting trip to keep an eye on him.
Will Gus make the right call on whether the Braves should draft a hotshot slugger who has been stirring up a lot of buzz? Will Gus and Mickey ever make amends and work on healing the wounds of the past? Will Mickey fall for the dreamy scout (Justin Timberlake, The Social Network) she meets during their trip? Will Gus' superiors find out about his vision problems? Will Mickey's decision to take this extended trip jeopardize her chances of becoming a partner at the high-powered law firm she works at? The answers to these questions and many more await in Trouble with the Curve!
The baseball comedy-drama Trouble with the Curve is a Lifetime movie elevated by an enthusiastic A-list cast. There isn't a single unpredictable moment in the entire film. The film establishes a dozen or more thoroughly conventional subplots early on and proceeds to take each and every one of those subplots exactly where we expected them to go without a single detour. In fact, the film's foreshadowing is so blatant we wouldn't stand a chance of being surprised, even if we weren't all-too-familiar with the conventions this flick employs.
An example: the player the Braves want Gus to keep an eye on is a slugger named Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill, Hart of Dixie). Yes, Bo is quite possibly the most impressive batter in the minor leagues, but he's also a complete tool. He's self-absorbed, racist, sexist and thoroughly unlikable in just about every way imaginable. The film would never permit such an ugly human being to achieve victory, so it's obvious that Gus will eventually find a reason to recommend not drafting the player every team in the country wants to draft. Meanwhile, the quiet, polite, sweet-natured kid who sells peanuts at the stadium might just be hiding a level of talent which is, "like Randy Johnson and Sandy Koufax combined!" Sigh.
However, if Trouble with the Curve were actually a Lifetime movie, it would be unbearable. Thanks to its impressive cast, it becomes a perfectly tolerable (if forgettable) way to kill a couple of hours. None of the actors are doing things you haven't seen them do before, but they hit familiar notes in a pleasurable fashion. As with almost every character Eastwood has played over the course of the past couple of decades, Gus is a man who is well aware of his age and limitations (the movie opens with a scene of Clint Eastwood having a conversation with his uncooperative penis, which is admittedly a bit more compelling than his conversation with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention). He's grouchy, he tosses off smarmy one-liners directed at know-it-all young folks and he's intensely private, but he eventually finds himself opening up to the important people in his life. It's a reheated amalgam of his turns in Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino and Blood Work, but Clint's crusty presence remains a delight regardless. Amy Adams is effective as the uptight character who must eventually engage in such non-uptight, movie-approved activities as dancing, skinny-dipping and making out. John Goodman (a prominent cinematic presence in 2012) is charming in a lightweight supporting role, Justin Timberlake brings a low-key charm to the film's key romantic interest and Matthew Lillard delivers an enthusiastically slippery villain.
Perhaps the most unique (and compelling) element of the film is its status as a rebuttal to Bennett Miller's Moneyball, the film which extolled the virtues of the scientifically-minded number-crunching technique Billy Beane used to build a baseball team. Miller's film makes a persuasive argument for statistical logic over a scout's intuition, but Trouble with the Curve spits at that argument with obstinate venom. "Anybody who uses computers doesn't know a damn thing about this game," growls Gus, who rails against "the inter-webs" while rolling his eyes. While the movie recognizes Gus as foolish and out-of-touch in many regards, it completely vindicates him in this particular area. Unfortunately, the case being made feels more like a contrivance of the screenplay than a convincing, relevant argument (and surely there is one) about the importance of taking a more personal approach to scouting.
Trouble with the Curve (Blu-ray) offers a stellar 1080p/2.40:1 transfer which highlights the film's warm, sunny Georgia locations. While Eastwood has relied on dark, moody palettes as a director, first-time helmer Robert Lorenz (a longtime Eastwood collaborator) generally opts for a much warmer look (save for a few nighttime scenes which lean heavily on shadows). Detail is exceptional throughout, flesh tones look warm and natural, blacks are deep and inky and shadow delineation impresses. I noticed fleeting instances of banding here and there, but nothing too problematic. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is effective enough, highlighting the warm Marco Beltrami score and the understated (but nonetheless immersive) sound design. Dialogue is crisp and clean throughout. It's a pretty subdued film in this area, but the track does what it needs to do. Supplements are limited to two brief, disposable featurettes: "For the Love of the Game" (6 minutes) and "Rising Through the Ranks" (5 minutes).
Trouble with the Curve boasts a terrific cast, but ultimately proves unsatisfying due to its relentlessly conventional plotting. Here's hoping this isn't Clint's final turn in front of the camera.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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