September 27, 2012

'Trouble With the Curve' strikes out


---- — Clint Eastwood could use a comeback film after his much-panned empty-chair monologue at the Republican National Convention.

In “Trouble With the Curve,” however, he strikes out on a half-hearted swing.

The first-time directorial effort by Eastwood’s longtime assistant director, Robert Lorenz, “Trouble With the Curve” is formulaic, uninspired and completely predictable.

The ham-handed script has a made-for-TV feel, elevated only by its impressive star power.

Eastwood, who had retired from acting after 2008’s excellent “Gran Torino,” hobbles back on screen as Gus, a grizzled veteran scout for the Atlanta Braves.

Gus is a baseball legend — capable of identifying a good player by the sound of his swing — but his eyes are beginning to fail, and the front office wonders if it’s time to set him out to pasture.

Amy Adams, exuding plenty of exasperated charm, is his estranged daughter, a lonely, high-powered attorney who reluctantly joins Gus on a scouting trip to rural North Carolina.

The performances of the main actors aren’t bad at all. No one does cranky old man better than Eastwood, and Adams shows off some good chemistry with both Eastwood and Justin Timberlake, who drifts into the film as a former player and a sort of afterthought love interest.

The material, unfortunately, is poor. The film’s attempts at emotion are clunky and blatant. Purists will have numerous problems with the baseball bits, and Matthew Lillard’s cartoonish portrayal of a young executive who disavows old-school wisdom is particularly annoying.

A halfway astute viewer will be able to see every pitch “Trouble With the Curve” has coming from a mile away — with the possible exception of its just plain silly happy ending.

Eastwood has a brilliant body of work to his credit. This is one that will be quickly forgotten.

Rental recommendation: Eastwood’s stubborn scout easily could have been a character in the much better, and much more realistic, baseball flick “Moneyball.” Grade: A

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Trouble With the Curve

Grade: C

Starring: Amy Adams, Clint Eastwood, Justin Timberlake

Rated: PG-13 (for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking)

Running time: 111 minutes