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Review: Trouble with the Curve (2012)

Director: Robert Lorenz | 111 minutes | drama, sports | Actors: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, John Goodman, Ed Lauter, Clifton Guterman, George Wyner, Bob Gunton, Jack Gilpin, Matthew Lillard, Robert Patrick, Nathan Wright, Scott Eastwood, Matt Bush, Justin Timberlake, Louis Fox, Ricky Muse,

Having a good curveball is one of the best weapons a pitcher can have. The unique thing about this pitch is that it starts high, ideal for a batter. Then, when the batter starts his stroke, to fall from the sky, as it were, so that the batter no longer has a chance of hitting the ball. Having a good curveball is a great weapon for a pitcher. On the other hand, one of the biggest challenges for a batter is being able to hit the curveball. An average hitter knows how to hit a fastball, but when moving from amateur to professional, being able to hit the curveball is one of the biggest challenges in the learning process.

Not surprisingly, this learning process is central to ‘Trouble with the Curve’. The story revolves around Gus (Clint Eastwood). Gus’s life really revolves around one thing: baseball. As a scout for the Atlanta Braves, he has spent his life traveling the country in search of young talent who can then be selected by his club for the annual draft. Gus is an old guard scout, one who does nothing but watch matches, 24 hours a day, on TV or in the stadium. The sport of baseball has now also entered the 21st century, which means that nowadays everything is analyzed using complicated computer programs. However, the wildly opinionated Gus refuses to surrender to these technologies, with the result that his job comes under pressure.

Gus gets one last chance to prove that as an ‘old-fashioned’ scout he can still compete in today’s baseball. For this he is sent to Carolina where Gus has to see if an extremely hyped new talent is really as good as they say. To add to the central conflict, Gus also has eye problems. His bosses are very concerned about him and decide to send his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), a successful lawyer, with him. The two are not in a good relationship and neither is very happy that they are stuck with each other.

For it is certainly not the first time that he takes on the role of an old grumpy. While he still fulfilled this role in ‘Gran Torino’ (2008) and ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2004) with gusto, the trick seems to have worked out a bit by now. His Gus is so unsympathetic that it becomes unbelievable. Now this is not only due to the character that Eastwood plays, the films just mentioned are simply many times better quality than ‘Trouble with the Curve’. When Gus and Mickey arrive in Carolina, little more happens than watching baseball games together, with the frustration between the two (their broken relationship explained in a rather strange way later in the film) continues.

Also, the later addition of Justin Timberlake (in the role of rival scout Johnny Flanagan) unfortunately does little more than add some extra predictability to the story. And so ‘Trouble with the Curve’ saddles us with a baseball film that unfortunately cannot be in the shadow of ‘Moneyball’, which was released in 2011. ‘Moneyball’ is a very strong film about how baseball has changed over the years, with really interesting and fun characters. ‘Trouble with the Curve’ fails to reach this level anywhere. Typical of this is the way in which in the last half hour the film comes up with a number of completely unbelievable twists and turns to knit the story together. Director probably hopes to get away with this. Kind of like a pitcher throwing a bad curveball praying to get away with it. Unfortunately for Robert Lorenz, his moderate curveball is directly knocked out of the stadium.

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