Friday, September 21, 2012

Blind Crankiness: Trouble With The Curve

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

After seeing Clint Eastwood's infamous RNC performance, I began to ponder what the last Clint Eastwood movie I'd seen that I actually liked was--I'm talking those he merely acted in, as well those he directed--and I had to go back 20 years to Unforgiven. (And really, my love of that movie has more to do with my love for Gene Hackman than anything else.)

Critics tend to fawn over his directorial efforts, but I've found most of them to be plodding bores. I just don't get their appeal. I get his appeal as an actor, at least in his younger days--I mean, come on, Dirty Harry is the king of (granted, fascist and ridiculously violent ) cops--but his typecasting as a tough guy has devolved into typecasting as a cranky old guy. And that's a lot less appealing.

Trouble With the Curve is a mess. Part baseball movie, part father-daughter bonding movie, part romantic comedy, and no part good.

Eastwood plays Gus, an aging baseball scout who is having trouble with his eyesight, but refuses to get it dealt with, lest he give his bosses at the Atlanta Braves a real reason to fire him. Of course, if he can't see, he can't really scout, but he's convinced he can do his job without his eyes.

An old buddy and co-worker, (played by John Goodman and his mustache), isn't so convinced, and so wrangles Gus's daughter Mickey, (Amy Adams), into joining him on the road, as she did in her younger days, and helping him out with the scouting. She reluctantly agrees, even though she doesn't much like her father, and has just landed a partnership at her law firm, a position she's worked her entire career to get. But sure. Put that on hold to help out your cranky father, who doesn't want your help.

See, he largely had to raise her by himself after the death of his wife--her mother--when Mickey was just a kid. He made choices about her upbringing that he thought were best for her, but never explained those choices, thus leaving her resentful and angry. In turn, he felt defensive about his actions, and thus shut himself out from her emotionally

Really, they could avoid the whole painful "bonding trip" with a simple visit to an eye specialist, and maybe two sessions of family counseling.

Tossed into the middle of this boring duo is a character that pops up inexplicably in the beginning for one scene, disappears, and then shows up again about 30 minutes later, wanders around for what seems like forever, before explaining who the hell he is.

He's another scout, an ex-ballplayer named Johnny, (played by Justin Timberlake), who was discovered by Gus years ago, but had to give up the game after an injury. Needless to say, he romances Mickey, who is reluctant at first. And for the record, Adams and Timberlake have zero chemistry together. (I said it a year ago and I'll say it again: JT needs to stop stop making bad movies and start making another record. Now.)

As I mentioned earlier, the movie is a mess. The film opens with an inexplicable nightmare about a horse, and this isn't addressed until almost an hour later, at which point that horse has been forgotten, and the explanation for its existence--which should have some emotional impact--is completely devoid of any.

There are other screamingly obvious plot points brought up, abandoned, and then re-introduced way past the point of caring. As a result, instead of building up to, say, a surprise, or a satisfying pay-off, one is just left wondering, "Jesus Christ, when are they going to get back to that Hispanic amateur ballplayer who's obviously going to save the day for everyone? I haven't got all damn night!"

Director Robert Lorenz, who, after many years of working with Eastwood in various other capacities behind the camera, makes his directorial debut here, fails at the "show, don't tell" rule. There's just way too much exposition, stating of feelings, and explanation of plot. It's like the movie was written for a guy with failing eyesight, not about one. The whole thing is as exciting as an 18-inning game that ends in a walk-off.

Actually, I have no idea if that baseball metaphor makes any sense, and I don't care. All I know is you'll have a much better time watching a Giants game this weekend than you would watching this crap.

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