"Trouble With the Curve" is not a monster 469-foot Pedro Alvarez homer. It is, thanks to stars Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake, a solid triple that nevertheless telegraphs much of what is to come in the later innings.
Mr. Eastwood, 82, is Gus, a grumpy old baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves who literally growls at times as he copes with failing eyesight, an art that has become an impersonal science and a job that could disappear in three months. He's been a widower since 1984 but still wears his wedding ring and visits his wife's grave to update her on their now-adult daughter, Mickey (Ms. Adams).
3 stars = Good
- Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake.
- Rating: PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking.
She has baseball in her blood and her name -- she was named for New York Yankee Mickey Mantle -- but is on the verge of becoming a partner in her law firm. She hasn't taken a Saturday off in seven years but, after getting a visit from her dad's friend and fellow scout Pete (John Goodman) and making inquiries about her father's health, she hits the road.
Mickey joins Gus as he tracks a power-hitting prospect who has also lured rival scout Johnny Flanagan (Mr. Timberlake) to the field. The road trip to North Carolina reopens old wounds for Mickey, offers the promise of a stepping stone for ex-pitcher Johnny, and proves to be make-or-break (meaning retire) for Gus and a high school kid who might be headed to the bigs.
This is a baseball movie in which the hotshot hitter is one of the least important and most unlikable characters. Before he fields an offer, he's already strutting, signing autographs for $45 a pop and bragging about the benefits headed his way.
Remember those grizzled scouts who were considered obsolete in "Moneyball"? Well, this is about one of those guys, who wants to see and hear a prospect instead of scrolling through stats on a laptop or iPhone.
Beyond that, "Trouble With the Curve" refers to the curveballs life can throw at anyone: the death of a wife and mother to a 6-year-old girl, the gulf that develops between parent and child, the ravages of age, the physical toll baseball can take on even a young body, and the fierce competition on the way up the ladder.
Mr. Eastwood, a four-time Oscar winner for directing and producing "Million Dollar Baby" and "Unforgiven," did not direct "Trouble With the Curve." His longtime producing partner Robert Lorenz ("Mystic River," "Letters From Iwo Jima") makes his directing debut here with a screenplay by Randy Brown that lacks the consistently snappy, smart Aaron Sorkin patter from "Moneyball."
Eastwood to Adams to Timberlake might not be the same as Tinkers to Evers to Chance. But each plays to his or her strengths, delivering gravitas, beauty matched by brains, and easygoing comic relief and charm over the plate.