If you have any chance of enjoying Trouble With the Curve at all, you should first understand that it’s not a real movie.
I mean, yeah, okay, it’s a real movie: It’s playing in actual movie theaters and stars actual movie stars and has something approximating an actual movie script.
But what I mean is, it doesn’t have anything real to say. It doesn’t come from any emotionally authentic place. The pleasures it does have are strictly of the formulaic variety.
I began to suspect that this was the case when I saw Clint Eastwood’s car. Clint is playing Gus, an aging baseball scout, but the car he drives is a vintage Mustang—a movie cliché car, not the kind of a car a guy who has to drive around the country watching prospects would ever own.
And then—THEN—the young aspiring scout played by Justin Timberlake has a similar vintage convertible. They’re not even trying here.
This extends to all the film’s characters.
As Gus, Clint is playing the new Clint, that is to say, an angry old man who growls and sneers and rages against the world, in denial that he has glaucoma, too proud to ask for help.
Amy Adams is his workaholic lawyer daughter, who secretly loves baseball more than she loves the law—and just wants to be accepted by her withholding dad.
Justin Timberlake’s Johnny is the convenient romantic prospect for her, an impossibly sweet guy who shares her passion for baseball statistics.
But it’s the supporting characters that are particularly crudely drawn. Gus’s rival on the Atlanta Braves (Matthew Lillard) is a smug guy who just wants to put the old man out to pasture and never attends an actual game (he does all his scouting via computer—how villainous!)
The slugging fielder who Clint is scouting is another cartoonish villain—cocky and dead-eyed and mean.
There’s even the requisite scuzzy guy at a bar who inappropriately hits on Adams’s Mickey so we can see how heroic both Gus and Johnny are.
Then we have the saints: John Goodman as the team’s director of scouting and Gus’s loyal-to-a-fault best friend. And Jay Galloway as an earnest, polite, wide-eyed flamethrower who will, inevitably, have a showdown with the jerky slugger.
I just wanted Trouble With the Curve to have something to say about anything. About fathers and daughters. About baseball. About scouting (as the brilliant Moneyball did). About life on the road.
Instead, it settles for cliché piled upon cliché. One good thing? It made me long for the funny, complicated, soused Buttermaker played by Walter Matthau and the tender, interesting, believable relationship he had with his step-daughter played by Tatum O’Neal. Bad News Bears viewing party, here I come!