DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (director: Robert Lorenz; screenwriter: Randy Brown; cinematographer: Tom Stern; editors: Gary D. Roach/ Joel Cox; music: Marco Beltrami; cast: Clint Eastwood (Gus), Amy Adams (Mickey), Justin Timberlake (Johnny Flannagan), John Goodman (Pete Klein), Joe Massingill (Bo Gentry), Matthew Lillard (Phillip Sanderson), Robert Patrick (Vince), Scott Eastwood (Billy Clark), Jay Galloway (Rigo Sanchez), Peter Hermann (Greg), James Patrick Freetly (Todd); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Clint Eastwood/Robert Lorenz/Michele Weisler; Warner Brothers Pictures; 2012)

"By pitching batting practice slow balls, the film manages to hit all of the baseball subplots."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

The directing debut of Robert Lorenz, Clint Eastwood's long-time producer, is easy-going much like Clint's. The melodramatic baseball film is well-executed and acted, crowd-pleasing, predictable, safe, contrived, corny, inspirational and sentimental. It's the kind of softball movie you would expect to watch on cable. Writer Randy Brown builds a few soap opera subplots around the baseball story of the grumpy but likable Atlanta Braves long-time scout Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood), whose contract is up in three months and he's going blind. The general manager (Robert Patrick) is being pressured by an obnoxious young ambitious front office executive (Matthew Lillard), who is a numbers cruncher, into firing Gus for being a dinosaur--someone who doesn't even use a computer. But the veteran chief scout Pete Klein (John Goodman) remains loyal to the knowledgeable old-fashioned scout who signed a number of Braves legends. Whether Gus keeps the job depends on his evaluation of hot hitting high school prospect Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), who is tearing up his high school competition. When Pete notices something is not right with the long-time widowed Gus, he persuades Mickey (Amy Adams), Gus' daughter, who is an attractive and bright 33-year-old lawyer to accompany him to the North Carolina sticks. Their relationship is currently frosty as Gus fails to communicate with his troubled workaholic daughter, who wants to be a partner in her high-powered Atlanta law firm and is promised the opportunity if she wins a big upcoming case. Though being a partner in the law firm seemingly means everything, Mickey, named for Mickey Mantle, treks to North Carolina and becomes the eyes for dad when the firm wants her present to prepare her case. While scouting the hot prospect and trying to decide if he's worth the second pick in the upcoming draft, the father and daughter finally communicate why he let her uncle raise her after mom's death when she was six and bring to closure the question of parental regret and a lasting feeling of childhood rejection. There's also a romance in the works with nice guy Johnny "The Flame" Flannagan (Justin Timberlake), a former top prospect pitcher signed by Gus for the Braves but who is washed-up after traded to the Red Sox and developing arm trouble because he was not used right. Johnny is now a scout for the Red Sox, the team with the first draft pick, with ambitions to be a broadcaster and romance Mickey. The other subplot involves the law firm stabbing Mickey in the back by having another lawyer (James Patrick Freetly) vying for the partnership present her case and become frontrunner for the valued partnership.

By pitching batting practice slow balls, the film manages to hit all of the baseball subplots. The story advances as Gus without seeing can tell the prospect has a hitch in his swing by the crack of the bat and determines not to take the prospect because he can't handle a curve. After that all the other conflicting scenarios fall in place and the good guys beat the bad guys, making for a happy ending. That a film so formulaic could be enjoyable despite all the contrivances must be credited to Eastwood's usual solid performance and the slugger performance by Amy Adams, who gives her baseball savvy character a little vulnerability, a little sugar, a lot of sex appeal and a lot of heart.

REVIEWED ON 9/27/2012       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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