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The man in the opening scene of Trouble with the Curve is not the Clint Eastwood I love. This man stumbles out of bed, knocks over furniture on his way to the bathroom, and struggles to take his morning piss. This must be some alternate version of the immortal Eastwood, king of buck-stops-here ass kicking. Really, this new Eastwood was inevitable; the 82-year-old actor had to start acting his age at some point. Here, Eastwood, in his first acting role with another director since In the Line of Fire, plays grizzled Atlanta Braves baseball scout Gus Lobel, a man as grouchy as Eastwood's leads in Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby. Gus goes to North Carolina to scout a promising high school player, but five decades of experience is no match for growing old. Amy Adams swoops in as Gus's tightly wound daughter Mickey, who wants to spare her father's dignity and career. Directed by Eastwood's longtime producer Robert Lorenz, Trouble with the Curve is standard sports-drama fare. The film is perfectly pleasant but certainly not memorable, and pales in comparison to Eastwood's better works.
Gus is near the end of his career as a scout, but Braves recruiting boss Pete Klein (John Goodman) sends his friend on one last, career-defining assignment. New management hire Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard) is out for Klein's job, and calls for Gus to be put out to pasture. Mickey is about to make partner at her firm, but decides to join her dad on the road when she hears about his deteriorating eyesight. New scout and former hotshot player Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake) shows up to relive old times with Gus and pursue frosty Mickey. Along the way, it becomes apparent that Gus was not a great father to Mickey, who harbors much resentment.
I have a soft spot in my hard heart for sports dramas and father/child forgiveness tales, so I certainly don't dislike Trouble with the Curve. Trouble is, the whole thing feels very pedestrian for a Clint Eastwood project, and the excellent supporting cast largely coasts by in Dirty Harry's shadow. There are several competing dramatic elements: Gus suspects the arrogant upstart he is following is all flash and little substance, and works to convince his superiors and Johnny that he is right. Klein fends off Sanderson in Atlanta, and Mickey stalls firm partners anxious to see a presentation she is spearheading. Much of the film focuses on Gus and Mickey's relationship. Single-parent Gus was largely absent from Mickey's childhood, and Mickey blames her emotional unavailability and inability to trust others on Gus.
Trouble with the Curve checks off many items on the "Sports Movie Must List." There's some redemption for Gus, Mickey learns to relax and Johnny finally gets his kiss. There is plenty of humor - Mickey and Johnny clog at a bar; Gus revels when Mickey drops her vegan diet restrictions - and some exciting baseball talk. Fans of the game will enjoy the succinct look at professional scouting, but the travel-heavy job seems a lonely, unglamorous profession. There's not much to complain about acting-wise; Eastwood, Adams and Timberlake are quite competent in their roles. If only Randy Brown's script had made the characters more interesting. Other than a semi-shocking revelation about Mickey's childhood, Trouble with the Curve keeps it solidly between the buoys. Trouble with the Curve is guilty of being derivative, but there are worse crimes than being familiar.
Warner Brothers' 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is unflashy but technically sound, just like the movie. There is plenty of detail in the image, from the hairs in Eastwood's five o'clock shadow to the billboards at Turner Field. Skin tones are natural, and colors are often quite bold, particularly the greens of the N.C. landscape and the reds, yellows and blues of the uniforms. Black levels are solid, and there is decent shadow detail in the nighttime scenes. A light layer of grain gives the image a nice film-like appearance, and I noticed no compression artifacts. I spotted only minor aliasing in some trees.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack balances dialogue, effects and score appropriately. Dialogue is crystal clear, and the surround speakers are used for ambient effects like crowd noise at a ballgame and the symphony of woodland creatures when Mickey and Johnny go swimming at night. The subwoofer responds during an accident scene, and the track displays impressive range throughout. French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are included, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and a code to redeem an UltraViolet digital copy. The discs are housed in a Blu-ray eco-case, which is wrapped in a matching slipcover. After a reprieve with their The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray, Warner returns to using its ugly static-symbol menus and offering little in the way of extra features. Two featurettes, totally roughly ten minutes, are all the bonus features you get. Trouble with the Curve: Rising Through the Ranks (4:37/HD) is a brief piece about Eastwood and Lorenz's decades-long relationship, and Trouble with the Curve: For the Love of the Game (6:02/HD) sees Adams and Timberlake discussing their characters.
Like it or not, Clint Eastwood is getting old. We are not likely to see many more Eastwood action flicks, and instead may have to settle for decent dramas like Trouble with the Curve, in which Clint plays an aging baseball scout. Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman play second fiddle to the legend, and Eastwood's longtime collaborator Robert Lorenz directs. Trouble with the Curve feels like a movie I've seen a hundred times before. There's a bit of father/daughter drama, plenty of groaning about getting old, and some redemption for the grouchy lead. There's nothing new to see here, but familiar is an adjective with many connotations. Rent It.
William lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.