This predictable, somewhat maudlin sports drama is more notable for Clint Eastwood not directing but starring in it (the first time since In The Line of Fire almost two decades ago). There are some nice framed photos of his character (or really him) with the likes of legends like Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle at the outset but it seems that he was doing a favor to come out of acting retirement to help with his increasing demographic.
Trouble With The Curve is the more benevolent cousin of Moneyball and hardly has the same effect of the iconic film star and director's Gran Torino; granted there is more of a lighter intent with producing partner and assistant director Robert Lorenz accommodating the helming duties complemented by plenty of pristine images around Ted Turner Field and other location shooting in the Carolina leagues .
Randy Brown's leisurely scripted tale entails Atlanta Braves cigar-smoking scout Gus Lobel (Eastwood) starting to lose his eyesight (macular degeneration) and having driven BlackBerry-using attorney daughter (who knows more than a thing or two about baseball) Mickey (Amy Adams of The Muppets and concurrently, Paul Thomas Anderson's seriously enigmatic drama The Master) reluctantly come to his aid regarding a top high-school batting phnom who should have thought twice about treating a certain vendor with more respect.
As Moneyball followed Brad Pitt's Billy Beane with diligence in characterization using the game's evolution and machinations as a backdrop, Trouble With The Curve follows Gus as the Braves front office question his judgment, even with John Goodman's, GM Pete Klein on his side. Pete suggests that Gus try to embrace the modern digital age a little more with all the newspapers he wades through when splurging on pizza for breakfast. Pete's the one who gets a single, multitasking Mickey (on the verge of becoming a partner in the firm) on the track to reconnect with a man she never really knew and hurt her. The words of "You Are My Sunshine" help give meaning to the Gus/Mickey dynamic as they get that intimate moment on the diamond, while being rather touching during a grieving quiet time.
A gloomy, gruff, grunty Gus gets to show Eastwood still able to incite some barroom activity as in his "Bronco Billy", "Honky-Tonk Man" days as once famous pitcher Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake of Friends With Benefits) gets in on the action for the upcoming draft as a rival Boston Red Sox scout once close to Gus and developing a fondness for Mickey that isn't initially the same for her. Gus still has a "sixth" sense in his profession that helps get around his central visual impairment that Mickey eventually picks up (when Gus gets privy to the prospect's eponymous weakness) on and a little savvy has a plot turn out of left field providing some needed comeuppance.
The writing does have some amusing banter (for example Gus and a diner waitress about New Jersey) as Timberlake gets to do some broadcasting and Adams has a feistiness that helps lift some scenes out of the doldrums. So, this "Curve" doesn't have the kind of sharp break that true Eastwood fans might have wished it had, but it coasts along on his easy-going charisma, and the way Adams and Timberlake, for that matter, engage their roles. Goodman (The Artist) always seems to bring something good to the table with supporting players like Bob Gunton, Robert Patrick and Matthew Lillard (who's saddled with an unsympathetic part like The Descendants) providing some of the conflict to the milieu of Mickey and Gus as executives, respectively, who may be expendable. Nevertheless, it's hardly troubling, especially for those into our national pastime or for those who can easily empathize with someone like Gus who might not be at the top of his game, but knows what a batter is doing with his hands.