Director: Robert Lorenz
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Matthew Lillard
A week after Silver Linings (Playbook) comes this equally lingo-heavy title, a sports movie-cum-family drama with its eyes set firmly on the Oscars.
Clint Eastwood plays Gus, a baseball scout with a nose for talent but eyes that don’t work anymore, especially when parking his car. He has trouble with the curb.
Amy Adams plays his daughter, gunning for a partnership at her law firm against a sea of other men. She has trouble with the perves.
Concerned for her dad, she’s convinced to accompany him on a scouting trip by Gus’ colleague, played by John Goodman. Like all the baseball execs, John’s mostly had trouble with the hors d’oeuvres.
And who should Amy and Clint meet on their way round the Hollywood script template junior baseball circuit but Justin Timberlake? He plays Johnny Flanagan, a pitcher who was destined for big things until he burned his arm out after being promoted too soon. He had trouble with the nerves.
Each of these characters could star in their own movie, complete with equally dreadful titles. But like an over-excited coach, Robert Lorenz’ drama tries to cram them all into one big super-team. The result is a pile of stereotypes plucked straight off Hollywood’s substitute bench and assembled with as much creative flair as a flat-pack IKEA wardrobe.
There’s admittedly some heart to Amy and Clint’s strained relationship, her exasperated, him grouchy, both as stubborn as each other. Clint gets some decent lines in between his incessant growling (“Get out of here before I have a heart attack trying to kill you!” he snarls at one unlucky punter in a bar). The opening scene even sees him talking to his penis (well, it’s one up from a chair).
But just as you start to invest in this father-daughter couple, the script (written by first-timer Randy Brown) brings Flanagan’s love interest into play. They go on some cute dates, do a bit of line dancing, but as soon as we get attached to this couple, on comes John Goodman with his own little sports story. Goodman, you see, is struggling against the rise of the machines and their inhuman statistical analysis of baseball.
Yes, it’s great to see Matthew Lillard bag another solid supporting role as the boardroom’s evil Brad Pitt, but should we be following The Descendants 2: Home Run or 10 Things I Hate About Moneyball? Trouble with the Curve can’t decide.
And so, with a cast made up entirely of star players, Lorenz jumps around trying to fill in all of their back stories. At one point, a bespectacled teen steps up to play in a high school game. “Hey, bacon boy!” the others taunt, “need some grease?” Even the background extras get a character arc.
It’s a similar problem to awards rival Silver Linings Playbook, which sandwiched together a dance movie, an exploration about mental illness and a sports drama into one big package. But where David O’Russell’s script had a clear, if clichéd, structure and a stellar ensemble to keep the pace up, Trouble with the Curve’s team are left drifting in the middle of the field with no clear ball to swing at.
The film tries to hold our interest by getting Justin Timberlake to strip and jump in a lake but cheesy devices, such as black-and-white flashbacks of childhood trauma, only take you further out of the game. It's about as much fun as watching Arsenal play Aston Villa. (As for Clint singing “You Are My Sunshine” to his wife’s grave, the less said about that the better.)
By the end, the movie’s so stuffed full of storylines that it doesn’t know when to call time. After 100 slow minutes, the plot strands finally come together and Clint turns to Lillard, Adams and Goodman before grunting with a sense of smug satisfaction. “That’s called Trouble with the Curve!” Everyone smiles.
Play continues for another 10 minutes.