When last we saw Clint Eastwood on camera, co-starring with an empty chair on the bully stage of the Republican convention, he proved among other things that (1) the GOP needs a better talent scout and (2) geriatric actors need a script.
If nothing else, Trouble With the Curve addresses one of those problems: Clint has a script. Actually, Clint has too much script, one of those schematic by-the-number jobs that telegraphs its every pitch. And since this is a baseball pic, sort of, let’s do a little play-by-play of the action.
Clint wakes up to pee and strikes out at the toilet. That’s because he’s really old, and cantankerous. Gran Torino cantankerous again. He’s also a scout for the Atlanta Braves, the ain’t-got-no-truck-with-them-computers kind of scout satirized in Moneyball. But satire takes a walk here. Instead, expect Clint’s gut instincts and keen baseball savvy to homer in the late frames. Bet on it.
Clint has a daughter named Mickey, as in Mantle, as in Amy Adams. She’s a lawyer vying for promotion to the legal big leagues. Clint and Mickey have a rocky relationship. A long-time widower, he committed many errors in his role as single daddy. Mickey keeps wanting to revisit that old box score. But not cantankerous Clint.
Clint visits his dear wife’s grave. He cracks a beer, sings You Are My Sunshine, gets teary amid the fallen leaves of mid-autumn. Wow, as scenes go, it’s an October classic.
Clint heads out on the road to scout a high-school phenom. There, he had better trust his gut, ’cause his vision is blind-umpire bad. Reluctantly, Mickey tags along to be his eyes. Turns out she’s baseball savvy too. Back at the head office, the computer whiz thinks that the phenom is a sure-fire slugger and top draft pick. Clint thinks the kid has trouble with the curve ball. The count runs full. The suspense mounts.
The love interest, the designated hitter in every sports flick, pops way up in the surprisingly skinny form of Johnny (The Flame) Flanagan, an ex-fireballer with a dead arm but a lively line of patter. Surprisingly skinny, because the form belongs to Justin Timberlake whose attempt, physically speaking, to play an athlete rekindles hilarious memories of Tony Perkins posing as Jimmy Piersall in Fear Strikes Out – in short, it’s a long stretch (and not the 7th inning kind)
The Flame pitches woo to Mickey, dances with Mickey, semi-skinny-dips with Mickey, kisses Mickey and fadeout, and yet ... just a guess, but I’d wager the Flame only got to third base with Mickey.
It’s late in the contest, yet old dog Clint learns a new trick. Other equally intriguing clichés are batted around. Mickey flashes a sign and, still stranded on third, the Flame threatens to steal home.
Game called on account of a climatological event rare in the big leagues but commonplace on the big screen and mandatory at big conventions – a dense suffusion of hot air.