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With: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard, Bob Gunton, George Wyner, Jack Gilpin, Ed Lauter, Chelcie Ross, Ray Anthony Thomas, Joe Massingill, James Patrick Freetly
Written by: Randy Brown
Directed by: Robert Lorenz
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking
Running Time: 111
Date: 09/19/2012

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Perfect Pitch

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Readers of this site know that I'm both a huge Clint Eastwood fan and a fan of baseball movies in general. Trouble with the Curve has been called the anti-Moneyball, but I love both movies. But just as a disclaimer, it's possible that my personal preferences may get in the way of my judgment here.

I will tell you that the new Trouble with the Curve is perhaps a bit too sentimental and betrays a first-time director's untrained touch, complete with unnecessary cutting and extra coverage. But at the same time, the earnest performances and the genuine love of good old-fashioned outdoor baseball footage made me grin almost constantly during its running time.

Clint Eastwood stars, having come out of "retirement" from acting, which he announced after Gran Torino (2008). He plays a crusty old baseball scout, Gus Lobel, who relies on his senses to find new players. Unfortunately, a young whippersnapper, Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard), who works, like Gus, for the Atlanta Braves, has used a computer to find a hot young hitter, even though he, Sanderson, has never actually been to a game to see him play. Sanderson is gunning for Gus's job, and it comes down to the old versus the new, instinct versus technology.

Worse, Gus's eyesight has begun to fail him. His old friend and boss (John Goodman) figures this out and asks Gus's spunky daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to accompany him. She's an extremely busy lawyer, with a career-making-or-breaking case coming up, but she agrees. Gus and Mickey have a complex relationship that is played out most satisfyingly over the course of the film, with the two actors giving powerhouse performances with one another. Adams, in particular, gives far above and beyond what the material requires, and she can proudly add it to her finest moments on film.

Justin Timberlake is also appealing as a former ballplayer and a potential love interest for the difficult, prickly Mickey.

The director is Robert Lorenz, who has worked for and with Clint Eastwood for the better part of 20 years, starting as a second assistant director on The Bridges of Madison County (1995), quickly moving up to first assistant director, and then beginning as a producer on Blood Work (2002). He knows Clint inside and out, but has placed himself in a tricky position: remaining true to Eastwood's vision and persona, but also striking out on his own. With a few stumbles here and there, he manages a nice balance.

Most striking is a potent scene in which Gus visits his wife's grave. It's one of the few scenes in movie history in which Eastwood breaks down on camera, and it's clearly a dangerous moment. But it comes off.

It's hard to defend the movie in its third act as all the plot threads draw neatly to a close. Trouble with the Curve is nowhere near as rich or as complex as Eastwood's own greatest movies of the past 20 years, but as a pure entertainment, it smacks at least a triple.

Warner Home Video released a lovely Blu-ray that emphasizes the film's warm, outdoor textures and the film looks and sounds terrific. It comes with a second DVD and an optional digital copy. Extras include two tiny behind-the-scenes featurettes, with on-set footage, clips, and talking heads.

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