The actors keep things perking in “Trouble With the Curve,” but the story they inhabit feels as formula-driven as the data-digesting systems that its crusty protagonist derides.
Part domestic dramedy, part flip side to “Moneyball,” and part Clint Eastwood vehicle without the actor-director’s latter discipline in play, the film might have been an old-fashioned sparkler embracing the human factor. Instead, it amounts to predictable bouts of batting and spatting marred by sentimentality and cliches.
The director is Robert Lorenz, a longtime Eastwood producing partner, and, with this story about a battered but fighting spirit making an imprint, he’s operating in the Eastwood mold. Dramatic impact, emotional credibility and narrative surprises are lacking, however.
Eastwood plays Gus Lobel, a retirement-averse ace scout for the Atlanta Braves who believes eyes, ears and gut instinct outshine computer analyses when it comes to evaluating ballplayer candidates.
In addition to being labeled antiquated, Gus is losing his eyesight. With his contract expiring, an upcoming North Carolina trip to check out slugger Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill) could determine Gus’ future with the franchise.
Concerned about Gus, his boss, Pete (John Goodman), persuades Gus’ daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), an ascending lawyer, to accompany Gus on the trip. Mickey is working on a case that could seal her chances of a partnership and isn’t eager to put it on hold to baby-sit her stubborn father.
Bicker-and-bond dynamics occur on the journey, and anger surfaces. Mickey, who was sent to live with relatives by the widowed Gus when she was 6, wants Gus to address this issue.
At the ballpark, baseball-bred Mickey becomes Gus’ eyes and affirms Gus’ assessment of Bo — an opinion that bucks the wishes of Gus’ superiors.
Eastwood is basically doing his formidable-codger character, “Gran Torino” style, and while hardly new, it is vital.
Adams, whether in corporate-lawyer mode or exuding baseball love, is vibrant and convincing. Sharing an engaging chemistry, the two keep things watchable.
But neither Lorenz nor screenwriter Randy Brown take the characters anywhere original or deep enough to enable the film to succeed as a compelling father-daughter drama, an insightful look at old age, or an immersing view of the baseball biz.
We have one-dimensional villains who get comeuppances, and deserving sorts who, in credibility-defying ways, triumph.
The movie doesn’t strike out — it doesn’t swing hard enough for that. But it is a routine deal whose worthy moments aren’t enough.