Gus Lobel is an old-school baseball scout, combing the Carolinas for talent. While his fellow recruiters in the Atlanta Braves front office play the stats game dramatized in Moneyball, Gus plays his gut.
For him, statistical models are no substitute for the intelligence he can glean from seeing whether a player has instincts, a pitcher telegraphs a fastball, a batter can't handle a curve.
Trouble With the Curve is a situation dramedy about grumpy Gus (Clint Eastwood) and his estranged spawn, grumpier Mickey (Amy Adams). The good news is that this daddy/daughter reconciliation story connects with the ball. The not-so-good: It's a blooper.
Mickey, named for a certain Mr. Mantle, is on the partner track of her law firm. She is a workaholic like Dad and as inflexible. Mom died when she was 6. When Gus farmed her out to relatives, their bond was broken. Given her percolating rage - she can't spend five minutes at a lunch counter with him and not boil over - it is in no danger of being reforged.
In this film, rookie screenwriter Randy Brown telegraphs every pitch. Gus himself is thrown a curve. Eye trouble. How can he evaluate a new prospect if he can't see the field? His boss, Pete (John Goodman), encourages Mickey to take family leave to accompany Gus on what may be his farewell tour of the diamond. Though it has some dark edges, Curve was conceived as a sunny screwball comedy with dad and daughter as pitcher and catcher. It has its charms.
The likeliness quotient of a determined young professional's sacrificing a critical time in her career for the father who did not sacrifice same for her is relatively low. Yet scalding-mad Mickey puts in for leave to accompany hot-and-crusty Gus, and the movie takes off into the back roads, pool halls, and sandlots of the Carolinas.
This has its charms. Robert Lorenz, longtime producer and assistant director to Eastwood, helms the movie in which the actor plays a PG-13 version of his Gran Torino role. In this his career twilight, Eastwood's default is the Cute Coot, the grizzled elder too proud to ask for help and surprised by joy when he receives it. It suits him. As does Tom Stern's sunlit cinematography.
Curve has a few late-inning reveals but only one true surprise. Justin Timberlake plays Johnny, a fast-talking pitcher who lost his arm, now scouts for the Red Sox, might compete against Gus for a promising prospect, and shows interest in the uptight Mickey. Timberlake's sassiness wafts through like fresh-cut grass in this otherwise Astroturf movie.
The upside with prefab and synthetic is that you know exactly what you're getting.