Friday, September 21, 2012

Trouble with the Curve

In the formulaic and crushingly predictable studio movie “Trouble With the Curve,” Clint Eastwood portrays Gus Lobel, a scout for the Atlanta Braves who doesn’t let a little macular degeneration get in the way of his Luddite misanthropy. The “get off my lawn” orneriness from “Gran Torino” has crusted and begun to scab; “Curve” isn’t offensive in the same way as “Torino,” but it’s equally unpleasant.

Amy Adams plays Gus’s long-suffering daughter Mickey, a litigator about to make partner at a law firm in Atlanta (though the “legal” dialogue in these scenes wouldn’t pass muster at We The People). When Gus’s director of scouting (John Goodman) comes to her office to tell her the higher-ups plan to retire Gus if he makes the wrong call about hot-hitting prospect Bo Gentry at the upcoming draft, Mickey packs up all her work on her career-making trial and hightails it to the Squirrel’s Nest motel in Lower Bumfuck, North Carolina. There, she’ll serve as Daddy’s eyes at the ballpark and get into scripted father-daughter arguments full of aphoristic bromides.

Justin Timberlake, often now the best thing in any movie he’s in, plays Johnny Flanagan, a onetime find of Gus’s whose pitching career ended when he blew out his rotator cuff. He’s now the greenest scout in the Red Sox organization (which, of course, explains why he’s scouting the consensus #1 pick) and shows up halfway through the picture to loosen up Miss Tightly-Wound Career Woman and give her the love she never got growing up. He’s sweet and sexy (despite some scruffy facial hair), but that won’t make you cringe any less when, at a honky-tonk bar, the extras literally stop what they’re doing and applaud some piece of baseball trivia Mickey comes up with or the Blue Mountain clog-dance they do.

Eastwood hasn’t made a good movie since – what? “Letters From Iwo Jima”? The paint-by-numbers script to this picture is exceptionally weak (you could write it yourself from the outline I’ve drawn). None of the major or minor characters is drawn with the slightest shade of gray, and we know instantly what outcome awaits each of them. At two hours, “Trouble With the Curve” takes forever to play out, and concludes with a disturbing revelation wholly out of keeping with the rest of the tone, followed by a situation so preposterous you almost have to admire the screenwriter’s chutzpah.

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