Trouble with the Curve. Directed by: For some reason Oscar (Tm)-winning director Eastwood dropped this one in the lap of Robert Lorenz (too much pressure?), primarily a producer (whatever it is they do) on Clint's flicks like Million-dollar, Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers, but if was for a fresh directorial viewpoint and a suppression of the occasional ham-handedness of the master, alas, disappointment beckons on account of one inhales the ripe scent of the aforesaid ham and the indelicate caress of the aforesaid hand. Starring: Clint Eastwood (looking, Lord love him, like Death Eating a Sammich--or vice-versa--and Jeeeee-zus, time to soft-peddle those close-ups! Yeeeee-uw! A zoom-in on one of those formerly-taut biceps now flaccid and pendulous puts you off breakfast and befogs memory of a formerly-vigorous idol. The erosion of old-age remains sufficiently insistent out here; doesn't really require an underscore on screen... and for ten bucks at that); Justin Timberlake (who can sing though does and yet doesn't, stuck inside a silly-ass beard for that same "some reason" adverted to above); Amy Adams (Dresden-china doll from whom we mighta got some skin but don't on account of there's no skin in baseball); John Goodman (settling for bulky-guy bonhomie--variously pronounced--cameos these days but at least fat again after a brief flirtation with wraithitude); Bob Gunton, poor guy, stuck in these preposterous bespoked Pharisee roles (check him out in Greg the Bunny for happier days) but always up to it.
Cowboys versus Aliens? Lawyers versus Baseball Players. Worser yet: Lawyers versus Baseball. The world of professional scouting (been done; there's even a movie The Scout), the which takes us from cathedral-ballparks of The Show, populated by overpaid, overaged, overdrugged adolescents to the hustings, America's outback, where overhormoned, overcoached, overrated actual adolescents whack away at the dream of becoming overpaid, overaged, overdrugged adolescents under the stern eye of overweight, overkibbutzed, overcourted coaches while overactive dads and overeager moms jostle one another against the adulation of overexcited, overnubile, overbubblegummed fee-male teenagers of the high cheekbones, pouty lips, tight jeans persuasion. Throw into this gruel mystic icon Clint Eastwood, stir, warm to room temperature, then whisper to me, Grasshopper, how you can make a bad movie with all that going for you? Perhaps it's the particular narcosis of the baseball game itself: Eight guys wooden stiff in a field of dreams while pitcher and batter duel wordlessly as passes between them an object of attention moving so fast you cannot see it. I love baseball, but that's what the hotdogs and beer are for: to beguile the idleness of the sport. You can wait all day for that smack of ash on horsehide...
And so Clint's Gus Meyer does. In flaking motels, under flickering neon, in seedy bars and on the splintery bleachers of time-washed small-town America's high-school ballfields. One more shot after a forty-year career winkling out potential stars, whose shelf-life may be of a day's duration only like that of his discovery, Johnny "The Flame" Flannagan (Justin Timberlake), now himself reduced to the life of itinerant scout in the same leagues as his former mentor, Gus reasons, then lights out in his dented Mustang (he keeps whanging into stuff as his eyesight glaucomas away) for the Carolinas. This time, howsomever, he's got in tow his alienated daughter (Amy Adams, fresh from her role in The Muppets, and who skinny-dips in her tee-shirt. Might wanna talk her through the theory of skinny-dipping, key word "skin," but, hey...), bigtime high cheekbones, pouty lips, tight jeans, fee-male lawyeress and corporate hustler, Mickey (named after guess who? "Lucky your dad wasn't infatuated with Yogi Berra," quips Johnny to the girl. I'm thinking Heinie Manush mighta been a worser namesake, but, hey...). We're after some kinda vague reconciliation here as deep and dark lies the source of the distance between grumpy dad and kewpie-doll offspring.
With that, we're off. The target: a doltish local star named Bo Gentry, loutish hick with a talent for punching the pellet over the backfield fence, groomed by a loutish coach and hovered over by a loutish father. Gus disapproves of the kid but cannot prove the evanescence of his talent to the satisfaction of computer-addled front-office pukes back home. What to make of all this? What lesson draw? What senty-mint freight away? Well, as we know baseball teaches innocence and purity though that stuff can be cloying. What your reviewer taxes with ham-handedness may in fact be simplicity in its umpteenth iteration. What redeems the picture, as ever, is script and presence: You can rue the inescapable senescence of our hero Clint, but it's hard to deny that when he walks into the room or onto the scene, if he's not the man he was, he's still The Man. And baseball still baseball.