Friday, September 21, 2012

Trouble with the Curve [2012]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Roger Ebert (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

Trouble with the Curve (directed by Robert Lorenz, screenplay by Randy Brown) is a lazy, softball of a movie that I'm positive that "old timers" would like, but probably would also make for a pretty good date movie (it's relaxing, probably won't cause too many fights afterwards and even offers young couples some insights into what to hang their budding relationships on).  

Set in the American South East, Gus (played by Clint Eastwood) has been a talent scout of the Atlanta Braves for decades.  He's become so good at his job that he could tell how a player he's scouting is doing in hitting a ball against a particular pitch based on simply the sound made when he makes contact with the ball with his bat.  It's probably good that Gus has learned to do that because with age he's coming down with macular degeneration and hence, if left untreated, going blind.  But since he's a typically stubborn old crow..., you get the picture ...

Fortunately there are people who love him.  There's Pete Klein (played by John Goodman) the head of scouting for the Braves (his immediate boss) and his daughter Mickey (played by Amy Adams).  Michey's a young, on the verge of becoming a really successful lawyer in Atlanta, who has still a  fair amount of pent-up "father-daughter" issues.  But despite her fair amounts of previous disappointments with her dad (in her own words) she still has "a dysfunctional concern for him that he be okay."  (I am certain that a fair younger of younger women in their 20s-30s could relate...).

Perhaps things could have remained in their stable if dysfunctional pattern indefinitely if Gus' contract were not coming-up for renewal in 3 months.  Like many a' old timer, Gus is not talking to anyone that his vision is failing, but Pete knows that "something is not right."  As his boss, Pete also knows that there's a younger guy in the Braves' organization, who's doing scouting through using computers to crunch baseball statistics and who's gunning for Gus' job.  (Yes, this film plays as sort of the "old timers' counterpoint" to last year's Moneyball [2011] which was about how the Oakland A's were able to use computers to keep track of statistics so well that they were able to field a winning team in spite of being one in one of the country's "smallest markets" and having the lowest budget in major league baseball.  But "a computer can't hear the sound that the bat makes when a player is hitting a curve ball ..."  And yes, I would imagine that so long as "old timers" / people in general buy more movie tickets than computers or robots, movies like Trouble with the Curve will _always_ remain more popular than movies like Moneyball [2011]... ;-)

So Pete calls-up Gus' daughter Mickey and asks for help.  Gus has been asked to scout-out a young new sensation, Bo Gentry (played by Joe Massingill) out in the hinterlands of North Carolina and if he screws this up, Pete tells Mickey that he's gonna have to let Gus go.  Now Mickey's trying to "make partner" at her law firm and there's _also_ someone gunning for her promotion.  Still and perhaps frustratingly to a lot of younger and middle aged women out there, Mickey rolls her eyes and slams the file she has in her hand against the desk, but then gets up, asks her somewhat confounded bosses for a few days of vacation time, goes home, packs her laptop into her suitcase and flies out to North Carolina to help her dad.  And ... when she gets there, dad of course, initially denies that he needs any such "help."  Sigh...  But she's there now and it turns out that Pete was right.  Her dad does need some help, and as time goes on Gus "sees" this as well.  Much of course ensues ...

Among that which ensues is that among the other scouts out there in North Carolina following this young sensation is a new young scout named Johnny (played by Justin Timberlake) who's representing the Boston Red Sox.  Johnny was a washed-up pitcher who Gus had initially recruited for his Atlanta Braves, who had played for them for a couple of years before having been traded to the Red Sox.  The Red Sox organization then had decided to use him in a way that he wasn't suited for (as a middle relief pitcher).  As a result, his rotator cuff in his pitching arm was soon ground up and ... bye bye career.  STILL, the Boston Red Sox were kind enough to give him a chance at being a scout for them (that's why he was out there in North Carolina) and he too still had plans ... hoping to score a slot as a radio announcer for the Sox, that's if he didn't screw this assignment up.  (Yes, the subtext of this film appears to be about how companies / organizations treat their individual members and the conflict between treating their individual members humanely as people with hopes and dreams as opposed to simply considering their statistics / performance).

Somewhat predictably, despite initial reservations on her part, Mickey and Johnny hit it off.  Yes, Mickey is better educated.  On the other hand, both Mickey and perhaps the viewers start to see that _her_ story is actually quite similar to his, and that yes, in the end WE ALL DEPEND ON THE KINDNESS OF OTHERS.

It all becomes a somewhat schmaltzy movie ... but readers will know that I often like schmalz (Country Strong [2010] was one of my favorite movies of that year).

And I would submit that Trouble with the Curve is a remarkably good "schmalzy movie" that will probably satisfy _both_ "the old timers" and "young couples" seeking to put together a good "founding story" (How did you folks meet?  What do you see in him/her?) to hang their relationship on. 

So over all folks good job.  This is not a particularly taxing movie to watch.  But it works ;-)

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