Review: "Trouble with the Curve"

Recently a friend of mine read one of my reviews and remarked that I spent the majority of the review ripping the film apart and then gave it a decent grade. My responses was that I feel like I need to justify and illustrate my reasons for docking a grade even if it’s not a bad film and told him he needed to come around when I really dislike a given movie. I hope that friend is paying attention today because I’m about to unload both barrels on Trouble with the Curve, a film that will undoubtedly wind up at the top of my worst of the year list. Things have been better for old Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood). At one time a prominent scout for the Atlanta Braves, Gus has fallen behind the times and hasn’t had a “hit” in a while. What’s more, his vision is beginning to go and his contract is up at the end of the year. Gus is looking at a retirement he wants no part of. With the Braves holding the second pick in the upcoming draft, Gus is sent to scout Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), a power hitting phenom that every team in the league covets. Sensing that Gus is struggling, his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), tags along for the trip, putting their already contentious relationship to a test it almost cannot handle. When they come in contact with Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a former player whom Gus scouted who is now, in turn, scouting for the Red Sox, he sparks a few well-needed conversations that put father and daughter on a path toward self-discovery and forgiveness.

I thought long and hard about Trouble and did my best to come up with some positives. Here’s what I could muster:

1. I snickered to myself during this movie approximately four times. Not outright laughter, you understand, but still, a mild expression of amusement; 2. Amy Adams is pretty; 3. The second act isn’t the worst second act I’ve ever encountered; 4. I like baseball. Not as it pertains to this film, though; just, in general, I like the game of baseball; 5. There’s a great Ray Charles song that plays over the closing credits.

That’s all I could come up with and alas, that’s not nearly enough to keep Trouble from being an unbelievably awful film on basically every level.

First of all, this movie is filled to the brim and beyond with every cliché you could possibly imagine. It’s like the filmmakers (whom I’ll address again shortly) were playing “Terrible Movie Cliché Bingo” when they put this mess together. Father-child tension: Check! Old man idioms: Check! A youngster who just doesn’t respect his elders: Check! A happy ending tied up with a pretty bow even though it doesn’t fit the narrative of the film AT ALL: Check! The list goes on and on, enveloping every aspect of Trouble in a haze of irritating clichés that would ruin even a good film, let alone one as poorly written as this one.

The clichés, though, only serve to highlight Randy Brown’s abysmal script that is full of more holes than the proverbial Swiss cheese, if the Swiss cheese was also rancid and covered in a foul green mold. The first act boxes the film into its inevitable and worthless course, the second act finds a tiny smidgen of momentum by taking the focus away from Eastwood, and then the third act comes along with all the storytelling acumen of a mentally challenged monkey. Quite honestly, this is a script that wouldn’t have been deemed strong enough for a made-for-TV movie on the Hallmark Channel. The “plot” is a paint-by-numbers travesty that is as predictable as they come save for one small break in which the story takes a very weird and dark turn for a brief second and then is washed over as if it never happened. (Because what family-friendly film would be complete without a near-rape? All of them, you say? Right you are.)

Likewise, virtually all of the characters are as razor-thin and one dimensional as you could possibly get which makes their respective and inevitable “redemptions” all the more painful. Note to all writers out there: if your character shows no signs of not being a crusty old son of a gun throughout the whole of your script/book/play, then your plot reeks of falseness if he suddenly turns out to be a decent human being at the last possible moment. That’s exactly what happens with Gus, who spends the entirety of the film making it clear to the audience that he is a miserable, unlikeable old coot and then makes a miraculous turnaround because…well, because you can’t end a manipulative, toothless movie like this one without a happy ending. Mickey, too, is exceedingly unlikeable and unsympathetic, a trait I did not know Amy Adams was capable of displaying. Concerning her struggles, I found myself thinking, “Oh, your father wasn’t there for you as a kid? Well, join the club, there are like 3 billion members worldwide.” This is the sort of script that could (and probably should) end a man’s career.

If all of that wasn’t enough, Trouble stands, for me at least, as proof that Clint Eastwood is done. I grew tired of Eastwood’s “grizzled old man” bit long ago and to be honest, I haven’t liked one of his performances in almost 20 years. But this movie takes things to a new level of depressing and aggravating. At the very least, Eastwood’s old man act, complete with barely intelligible grumbling, high wasted pants, and general dislike for everything, has always seemed genuine. But in Trouble, it comes across as forced and uncaring, as if he’s doing a parody of himself in Gran Torino or Million Dollar Baby. Moreover, he spends a good portion of the first 30 minutes of the film talking to himself, delivering winners like, “Breakfast of champions” in regards to a cold can of Spam and “singing” the lyrics of “You Are My Sunshine” to a gravestone. I half-expected the Obama Chair to make a cameo. It’s wretched acting and worse yet, it’s an embarrassment to an actor who used to be GREAT.

All of that doesn’t even take into account the atrocious depiction of baseball (both on the field and off), the most mailed-in conclusion of any drama I’ve ever seen, or little things like the presence of snow on the ground despite it being the middle of summer in the Deep South. The longer Trouble went on, the harder it became for me to sit still resulting in what I’m sure was an annoying experience for the person sitting next to me as I squirmed and shifted from side to side, praying for the pain to stop. It’s the movie narrative equivalent of being water boarded to death rather than being afforded that quick and painless bullet to the head (a fate I longed for as I sat through this movie, by the way). I can’t imagine anyone under the age of 60 enjoying Trouble AT ALL and while I’ve probably seen worse movies over the years, this is one that unquestionably belongs in that conversation.