TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (Robert Lorenz). 111 minutes. Opens Friday (September 21). See listings. Rating: N
Clint Eastwood may be a pretty slapdash filmmaker these days, but even he has yet to turn out a picture as utterly clueless as Trouble With The Curve. No, Eastwood's long-time associate, Robert Lorenz, gets the credit for that, making his directorial debut with one of the safest and simplest projects you can imagine - and botching it spectacularly.
Trouble With The Curve casts Eastwood as crabby old Atlanta Braves scout Gus Lobel, whose failing eyesight has put an end date on his career. Intent on making one last discovery to validate his worth as a man, Gus goes to North Carolina to check out a high-school phenom (Joe Massingill).
Further drama being required to pad this out to feature length, Gus's lawyer daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) is guilted into joining him in the field even though she's working on a really important case. Go figure - the time they spend together leads them to finally understand one another.
Oh, and there's also this nice young fellow, Johnny (Justin Timberlake), who used to be a pitcher - Gus even scouted him back in the day. But the kid blew out his arm, so now he's scouting for the Red Sox so they'll take him seriously when he applies for a radio gig next season. (I have a brother in sports radio. It doesn't work like that.) And because Johnny is reasonably attractive, it stands to reason that he'll be the one to get Mickey over her fear of intimacy.
There's some other stuff, too, but it's all just crap - clumsy scenes of Eastwood kicking furniture around his apartment and a motel room (including, yes, an empty chair) and even clumsier scenes of Gus and Mickey discussing their thorny history that pay off in an utterly ludicrous revelation that's supposed to be shocking and isn't. And then there's this other thing that's supposed to be a twist, I guess, but is handled so badly that it felt like the movie had fallen asleep and was dreaming itself a better ending.
I can't explain how infuriatingly unimaginative Trouble With The Curve is - and how utterly unaware of its own limitations, too. The movie asks us to side with traditionalist Gus in his disdain for the statistical modelling that made Billy Beane's Oakland A's so revolutionary in Moneyball. (Gus doesn't even own a computer!) But of course Randy Brown's screenplay owes everything to Beane's methodology; all it does is assemble ideas and plot points that have proved successful in other films.
On the upside, it makes J. Edgar look like the work of an American master. So maybe Eastwood was thinking two steps ahead the whole time.