Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Trouble With the Curve’ Review: Eastwood Has Grumpy Charm

When it comes to films about baseball, some favorites that immediately come to mind are “The Sandlot,” “The Natural,” “Angels in the Outfield,” “Major League,” and “Field of Dreams.” Growing up with a dad who loves the Baltimore Orioles and baseball, you can say I’ve had my fair share of baseball games, baseball movies and playing catch.

The most recent outstanding film that centers on America’s favorite pastime was 2011’s “Moneyball” with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and the amazing Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s hard not to compare “Trouble With the Curve” to “Moneyball” because the films are both about the art of scouting and how important it is to the game. “Moneyball” succeeded because it had the perfect balance of baseball and emotional involvement of the characters, plus Pitt was just fantastic in the lead role.

Gus (Clint Eastwood) has been one of the best scouts in baseball for decades. He is currently scouting for the Atlanta Braves and has an assignment to go to small-town North Carolina to scout a big-headed high school player. At his age, Gus should have retired years ago, but his love of the game and his job keeps him going. The problem is, Gus’ eyes are going and despite his doctor’s recommendation to see a specialist, he refuses.

When buddy and front-man of the Braves, Pete (John Goodman) sees that Gus is getting worse, he reaches out to Gus’ daughter, Mickey, (Amy Adams), who is named after his favorite player, Mickey Mantle. Mickey is an uptight lawyer who is working deligently towards partnership at her firm and only seems to make conversations with her father when she has to. The two obviously have a rocky relationship and we see Mickey’s frustration with her father come through in the scene where she confronts him about his eye condition.

Mickey ends up deciding last minute that she wants to take some vacation days and head to North Carolina to accompany her dad while he’s scouting. We quickly find out she knows just as much about baseball as her dad, maybe even more so. Ex-pitcher-now-turned-scout Johnny (Justin Timberlake) sets his eyes on Mickey and starts pursuing her as soon as she sits on the bleachers. The funny thing is, Gus actually scouted Johnny when he was in his prime-time, but his arm gave out during a game and his career as a pitcher was over. He has plans to become a MLB broadcaster, but is currently scouting for the Boston Red Sox.

There is a particularly joyous scene in the film where Gus pitches to Mickey after a game and she hits the ball into the outfield. Mickey runs around the bases cheering and doing cartwheels and when Gus asks, “What are you doing?” she responds, “Enjoying my home run!” It’s that scene in the film that signifies the cherished relationship between father and daughter and we realize that these two people care greatly for each other.

For a movie about baseball, it delivers great emotional performances, but there needs to be more games and frankly, more baseball! I thought the script was too divided between Gus and Mickey’s story and Mickey and Johnny’s story. The audience is beaten over the head with cliches and at points I was begging for something to make the movie stand-out among others.

Eastwood gives it his all and proves that he still has his swing, but “Trouble” needs a few more RBIs to be considered along the likes of “Moneyball,” “The Natural” or “Major League.”

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