In the fall of 2011, a little movie by the name of "Moneyball" put a fresh spin on an old and frankly rather tired cinematic convention, the baseball movie. Beyond the terrific performances (both Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill were nominated for Oscars) and brilliant screenplay (Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian were also nominated), one of the additional beauties of the film was that it took what would otherwise appear to be a dreadfully boring and hard to film subject matter -- statistics -- and make it seem fun, lively and entertaining.
In short, Hill played a numbers cruncher who -- based on a true story -- devised a new way to use all sorts of varied stats in determining the best players to combine to create a winning team. All of which was much to the chagrin of the old veterans -- especially the scouts -- who didn't appreciate the young upstart getting all fancy with them using numbers and such.
If I didn't know any better, I'd guess I somehow missed Gus Lobel sitting in the back of one such room, grumbling and growling about such people messing with the time honored tradition of scouting ball players. He's the lead character in "Trouble With the Curve," another baseball flick that could be considered the anti-"Moneyball" sports movie of 2012.
In it, Clint Eastwood somewhat takes up where he left off in "Gran Torino," once again playing a squinting, wrinkled and cantankerous sort who doesn't like a young stats guy (Matthew Lillard unfortunately bereft of Sorkin's dialogue or Hill's charisma playing the de facto antagonist) wanting to put him out to pasture. In fact, it doesn't appear he really likes most anyone (save for some similarly aged scouts who serve as both his competition and drinking buddies), and his blurred vision from macular degeneration has only further fouled his mood.
Thus, he's really peeved when his adult daughter (a ravishing Amy Adams) shows up to help him scout a new prospect (Joe Massingill) and thus not get fired from his job, all at the request of his old friend and boss (John Goodman). The twist, though, is that she doesn't like her father for reasons left mysterious to the viewer until the third act when they're finally revealed, and thus their pairing in a small North Carolina town is tenuous at best.
It's nothing we haven't seen before (in terms of estranged parent-adult child relationships, sports movies and such), but director Robert Lorenz -- working from a script by Randy Brown -- manages to infuse enough realism, charm and entertaining moments into the mix that it all goes down fairly easily, but also lightly (meaning it likely won't follow its 2011 predecessor and score multiple Oscar nominations).
The filmmakers do get a lot of winning mileage out of introducing Justin Timberlake as a former hot pitcher turned rival, but friendly scout. He also shows up to watch the new player, but his interest turns to checking out Adams' "I'm so busy I'll keep you at arm's length" character. While there's similarly nothing new to that particular setup, the two young performers take the material and run with it, likely to the light delight of most viewers.
It's the relationship between the father and daughter, though, that's at the core of the story and Eastwood and Adams make it work despite the clichés and conventions that envelope their characters (he the crusty old generation type who'd rather seem ornery and mad than let his true emotions out, she the overworked young professional trying to break through the old boys network and mindset at her law firm). Again, there's nothing new here, and the writing isn't anywhere near the caliber of what "Moneyball" knocked out of the park.
That said, I was never bored at any point and enjoyed more moments than I didn't. While "Trouble With the Curve" isn't a grand slam of baseball movies, it's a solid pop fly and double that gets the job done. It rates as a 5.5 out of 10.