Amy Adams and Clint Eastwood in "Trouble With the Curve." (Keith Bernstein / Warner…)
A year after the baseball drama "Moneyball" brought the newfangled statistical analysis known as sabermetrics to the big screen, the Clint Eastwood-starring "Trouble With the Curve" is here to show that the old school can still get it done.
That applies to both actors, with 82-year-old Eastwood in his first movie role since 2008's "Gran Torino," and to baseball pundits, with Eastwood's character, the gruff scout Gus Lobel, trying to keep up with the game despite his failing eyesight. (Luckily, he has some help from his plucky but estranged daughter, Mickey, played by Amy Adams.)
But while "Moneyball" was a hit with critics — a solid line drive deep into the outfield — "Trouble With the Curve" is more like a ground ball that just sneaks through the infield for a single.
The Times' Kenneth Turan gives a positive, if not glowing, review and credits Eastwood with doing much of the heavy lifting. "This amiable, old-fashioned film is no world-beater," Turan says, "but it underlines why, appearances with empty chairs excepted, it is always a pleasure to see this man on the screen." Robert Lorenz, a longtime producer and AD for Eastwood, makes his directing debut with a "self-effacing style [that] allows the actor to relax into the role of crusty and crabby old-timer that is pretty much second nature to him by now."
Although much in the film is familiar, the pace slackens at times and Randy Brown's script has flaws, Turan concludes that "the acting talent is strong enough to ride out the storm."
The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern, on the other hand, finds "Trouble With the Curve" to be "bush league almost all the way, a lifeless rendering of an amateurish script" with "declamatory acting, mawkish sentiments and wheezy editing." (That's at least four strikes, for those keeping score.) Eastwood's character "is mostly a tiresome grump," and although Adams and love interest Justin Timberlake share "some enjoyable encounters," the film finally hits its stride too late.
A.O. Scott of the New York Times agrees with Turan that the film's strength is its acting. Scott writes, "The pat and occasionally preposterous story is really just a pretext, a serviceable scaffolding for a handful of expert, satisfying performances. A gaggle of first-rate character actors trails Mr. Eastwood from Turner Field in Atlanta to the rural bars and ballparks, and the star knows how to step aside and let them work." Adams, "who somehow grows tougher, funnier, scarier and more charming with every role," is particularly good.
The Boston Globe's Ty Burr calls "Trouble" a "slow-rolling, distressingly formulaic drama." It's "nice," he concedes, "but that doesn't mean it's very good." The actors at least give a solid effort: "Adams and Timberlake give the dialogue more effort than it deserves," and Eastwood's "gnarly nobility still holds." Burr also muses that "it’s interesting to imagine what the movie would look like if Eastwood had directed it."
And in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert writes, "'Trouble With the Curve' isn't a great sports film, like Eastwood's 'Million Dollar Baby' (2004). But it's a superior entertainment, moving down somewhat predictable paths with an authenticity and humanity that appeals."
Depending on which critic you ask, it seems that "Trouble With the Curve" is either predictable but still enjoyable, or simply too predictable.
At the time of writing, the review-aggregating websites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have "Trouble With the Curve" scored at 53% and 58 out of 100, both of which indicate tepid reviews. But an old-fashioned guy like Gus would argue that you can't trust stats anyway.
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