It’s really hard to make an emotional and original sports movie these days. And baseball movies are especially tough. Seeing the trailers didn’t make me want to buy a ticket for this movie. Clint Eastwood playing the same character he’s been playing the last 10 years, Justin Timberlake being vaguely charming, and could Amy Adams really save this movie? I’ll see anything with Amy Adams, but this seemed like it was too far for even her to save.
And then I was pleasantly surprised by the time the movie was over.
Clint Eastwood is a scout for the Atlanta Braves. He’s incredibly successful as he’s signed some of the franchise’s best players in the last 20 years. But he’s losing his eyesight. As his contract is coming up, the Braves want him to scout a high school kid in North Carolina that they might take with the #2 overall pick in the draft. His daughter, played by Amy Adams, is a lawyer and success on her current really big case will decide whether she’s made a partner at her firm.
I don’t know many lawyers, but this seems to happen in every movie involving lawyers. Is that all that happens at a firm? Is everyone there working on a really big case and on the verge of making partner?
In any case, John Goodman works in the Braves front office and knows something is wrong with Eastwood so he wants Adams to go with him because she grew up going on trips with him and knows baseball on a Ken Burns level. While in North Carolina, they meet up with Justin Timberlake, a Boston Red Sox scout who is also checking out the high school kid. The Red Sox have the #1 overall pick, ahead of the Braves. All three spend a lot of time together. Eastwood and Adams work out their issues while Timberlake woos Adams.
The most impressive aspect of the movie was that it got better as it went along. Not surprising considering that as the movie went along there was more and more baseball. Baseball is a funny sport that has a lot of downtime and great dynamics among teammates and spectators alike. The writing was particularly sharp. The characters were witty, funny, and emotional at the appropriate times. The audience was often laughing, but also bought in to how emotional and serious some of the scenes were.
The weak link was Timberlake. He’s believable as a scout, but we’re supposed to buy in that he was a former stud pitching prospect who won his first start at Fenway Park with an overpowering fastball. He’s also an aspiring broadcaster who has a gentlemen’s agreement with the Red Sox that if he’s a successful scout that they’ll give him a shot at calling games for the team in the future. At one point, he pulls over on the side of the road and does play-by-play during a kids game. The problem is that he’s not very good. He busts out his “skill” a few times during the movie and it brings the movie down, making it worse that other characters in the film tell him that “he’s good” and that he “has a gift.”
Clint Eastwood is a softer and funnier version of the character he played in Gran Torino, but the one that shines is Adams. She’s the most dynamic character in the movie and is the one that has to carry the film as she has a constant interaction with every main character and is in complete control when she’s around the minor ones. Adams has to work on her case, help her father scout, deal with her emotional issues developed from her childhood, and consider taking things up with Timberlake.
One of the few problems I have with the movie is how long it takes for it to get going. For a baseball movie, there’s very little baseball in the first 30 minutes. Trouble with the Curve runs nearly two hours and it could have been closer to 90 minutes if the filmmakers hadn’t spent the first part of the movie hammering the same points home over and over. But what saves this movie is the writing. The dialogue is insightful, creative, clever, and funny at the right times. It’s quite an accomplishment that this is the first movie that Randy Brown has ever written.
I’d definitely recommend buying a ticket to see this movie and it’s one that I’ll enjoy on cable next year. Timberlake doesn’t quite pull off the character and Eastwood doesn’t do anything new, but Adams carries the picture well. It takes a while to get going, but gets better and better and there are even a couple of interesting twists at the end that were unpredictable. Go see it. It’s better than you think. It’s not often an old-school baseball movie can succeed with characters like these, but Trouble with the Curve finds a way to do it creatively.