Remember "Moneyball," which lionized young baseball nerds and their number-crunching computers? The crusty scouts, stubbornly clinging to their instincts, were the villains in that one. Now comes "Trouble With the Curve," the anti-
Only Eastwood could hurl the word "computer" with a rage undimmed since he spat the word "punk" in 1971's "Dirty Harry." Does a computer know when a pitcher's arm is going, or when a floundering rookie (Eastwood's son Scott, briefly) needs time with his family? Nevertheless, Gus could be replaced by a laptop if he doesn't stay sharp in North Carolina, where other teams are drooling over minor-league wunderkind Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill). One problem: Gus' eyes are going, and fast.
Eastwood, 82, is in his comfort zone as a pizza-for-breakfast widower, but the act is starting to feel creaky in this simple-minded baseball fantasy. "Trouble With the Curve" isn't even really a drama but a feel-good fairy tale that mistakes sentiment for emotion and trivia quizzes for a love of the game. Will Gus reconnect with his snippy, workaholic daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams, unusually grating), when she suddenly shows up in the bleachers? Will Mickey impress cute rival scout Johnny (a harmless Justin Timberlake) with her ability to rattle off players and dates? Will old Gus prove the whiz kids wrong in spectacular fashion? Or will he fail and finally confront his mortality? Just kidding about that last one.
Screenwriter Randy Brown signals his plays for all the world to see, while debut director Robert Lorenz (Eastwood's longtime producing partner) trots dutifully along, making "Trouble With the Curve" as predictable and suspenseless as a children's film. It's a softball straight down the middle.
PLOT An aging baseball scout brings his estranged daughter on what could be his last mission.
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE A hokey baseball fantasy that unfolds as predictably as a children's movie. Eastwood, once again the endearing codger, safely bunts.
Eastwood's top five grossing films
Can Clint Eastwood's "Trouble With the Curve" become one of his highest-grossing movies? Here is the current top five:
1. Gran Torino (2008) $148,095,302
2. In the Line of Fire (1993) $102,314,823
3. Unforgiven (1992) $101,547,477
4. Million Dollar Baby (2004) $100,492,203
5. Space Cowboys (2000) $90,464,773