CHICAGO – Before 1998’s “The Big Lebowski” there was 1996’s “Kingpin”, the Farrelly brothers bowling comedy that didn’t have the narrative intricacies of the Coen brothers’ classic, but had plenty of jokes about middle-aged men playing the sport. Today finds the release of “Kingpin” to Blu-ray for the first time, coming with only one new special feature.
Clint Eastwood Whiffs in ‘Trouble with the Curve’
CHICAGO – Clint Eastwood keeps going and going. His reputation as an actor is secure in a long career, and his power as a director is Oscar worthy. His ability to recognize a limp script? Not so much, if “Trouble with the Curve” is a gauge. Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake are along for the pitch.
There is nothing new in this baseball-as-a-metaphor-for-life theme, which had the door closed on it in last year’s superior “Moneyball.” This film mines the same territory, this time the player development is with the Atlanta Braves. Eastwood is a scout rather than a baseball executive, and he has an old school attitude towards the game. He would have been one of the gray beards at the conference table in “Moneyball,” as the modern game passes him by. “Trouble with the Curve” belongs in the studio era of the 1940s, with its simple relationships, stilted dialogue and who-is-right-in-the-end predictability.
Gus (Eastwood) was a superstar scout, signing some of the top talent in the Atlanta Braves organization over the years. The new management team has a different idea about the scouting approach, using statistics and computer models, but Gus won’t bite. The pressure from the top gets more intense, and the General Manager’s assistant (Mattew Lillard) is calling for Gus to retire. Even the Head of Scouting, Pete Klein (John Goodman), is having problems protecting his friend.
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Gus is keeping a secret, his eyesight is fading. When Pete discovers this, he begs the scout’s estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to accompany him on an important scouting trip. She is a high-powered lawyer, and risks her position in the firm to join Gus down South to see a prospect. Father and daughter need to work out some issues, even as a rival Boston Red Sox scout named Johnny (Justin Timberlake) starts to woo the fair Mickey.
The script does them no favors, but there is little chemistry between Eastwood and Adams in a father/daughter sense, and even more fatal there is no apparent spark between Adams and Timberlake. They all are in their own movie, and this lack of connection makes all the glaring clichés in the script that much worse. There is no sense of deep character in any of the roles, and the surface story of the pursuit of an arrogant hot prospect is not enough to sustain interest.
The romance of baseball, especially by the movies, is also oddly lacking in the film. It is in the background to the father and daughter conflict, until it isn’t, and then it’s mostly filtered through Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), the aforementioned prospect, whose high opinion of himself takes focus away from the nuances of the game. There’s baseball, but there is no feeling about using that as metaphor.
Amy Adams, a go-to actress who is the flavor of the moment, handles lighter fare much better than when she has to develop a character. Her Mickey is strangely distracted through the film, as if someone is about to come through the door and take her to another movie – which didn’t help that connection with Eastwood or Timberlake. Even more bizarrely, watch how similar she approaches the wife character in “The Master,” and this daughter role in a completely different setting. They both have the same vibe through her filter.
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
If there is anything to compliment about “Trouble with the Curve” is that it’s an old fashioned movie about parent and child relationships, coming together with the usual redemptive circumstances. Clint Eastwood slips on his tough-but-benign old codger like a well used baseball mitt. Even the ending is 1940s-style – Mickey discovers another hot prospect who just happened to be under their noses. In this day-and-age, is it possible that a player could get a major league tryout with no previous game experience? This movie would like you to think so.
Anyway, the game is never over for Clint Eastwood. Give the man a chair and an empty stage and he can make something happen. I know what you’re thinking, did he pitch six balls or only five? It takes only four to get to first base.