*** (out of four)
Predictable. Corny. Those terms certainly fit “Trouble with the Curve.” Guess what? They fit the vast majority of sports movies.
Though not without its flaws, “Curve” is a movie you root for. Veteran baseball scout Gus (Clint Eastwood) has spent his life knowing what players to get behind. Now, with three months left on his contract, Gus can barely see, but he’ll be damned if he lets the younger folks in the Atlanta Braves organization (including a slimy, sexist Matthew Lillard) push him out the door. Gus’ friend and colleague, Pete (John Goodman), recommends that Gus’ daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) join him in North Carolina to evaluate a hot high school prospect (Joe Massingill) whose arrogance outweighs his social skills.
Gus is pure Eastwood. Ask Gus how it’s going, and he’ll growl, “Absolute crap.” He’s a grouch with a good heart, though, and Eastwood effectively anchors a story about the courage it takes to know when you’re spent and the importance of keeping your eyes open for opportunities. Equally well-used: Justin Timberlake as Johnny “The Flame” Flanagan, a former pro pitcher until he blows out his arm and follows in Gus’ footsteps as a scout (with his eyes on the broadcast booth). Timberlake’s great as a scarred charmer. I liked Johnny and Mickey, and I liked them together.
The absurdly overrated “Moneyball” purported to discuss the notion of recognizing people who are undervalued. It really just used sports-movie enthusiasm to obscure why the team was really winning.
“Curve’s” first-time feature writer Randy Brown may have the occasional tin ear for dialogue, and the film gets a bit obvious in addressing the difference between something that works on paper versus real life. Still, the message connects because “Curve” is nice and funny and sincere.
Gus yells at the table he can’t see before he trips over it. He insists computers offer no help when judging a player. His stubbornness may be why he seems like he’s been a better coach than father. What director Robert Lorenz, Eastwood’s longtime assistant director, gets right is the difference between listening to your gut and knowing when someone else is right—and recognizing baseball as both a game and something more, depending on who’s cheering.
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