By Evan Bevins
The Marietta Times
Quality overcomes predictability in Clint Eastwood's first film by a director other than himself since 1993's "In the Line of Fire."
Eastwood plays Gus, an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves whose vision is failing him just as his contract is up for renewal. Compelled to help him despite their strained relationship is his daughter Mickey (Amy Adams, "The Muppets"), who accompanies him to scout a baseball phenom the Braves have an eye on for the upcoming draft.
As she puts to use the knowledge she picked up from her father, Mickey also tries to bridge the gulf between them. Gus, of course, wants nothing to do with that, but a variable is thrown into the mix in the form of Johnny (Justin Timberlake, "In Time"), a former prospect of Gus' who is now working as a scout himself, although Mickey draw a lot of his attention.
Behind the camera is Robert Lorenz, who has served as an assistant director on Eastwood's films dating back to 1996's "The Bridges of Madison County." Writer Randy Brown's script is enjoyable, even if it is filled with familiar characters doing predictable things. But those roles are filled by the right actors, including John Goodman ("Evan Almighty") and Matthew Lillard, who plays young jerk as well as anybody, even if I'll always remember him best as Shaggy in the live-action "Scooby-Doo" films.
If it doesn't already, Eastwood's photo will likely appear one day in dictionaries next to the term "grizzled loner" (see "Gran Torino," "Million Dollar Baby," etc.). But he doesn't just embody the "get-off-my-lawn" attitude of the characters; he brings a vulnerability to them that doesn't make them walking contradictions.
Adams handles comedy, drama and working with Muppets equally well, and any time she's in the cast, I'm interested in seeing the film. She's gives as good as she gets in scenes with Eastwood. Her Mickey is a strong and sympathetic character.
I much prefer Timberlake's acting to his music, and he shows again here how good he is at it. Johnny's a familiar type, finding common ground with and serving as a perfect foil for both Mickey and Gus, but Timberlake makes him his own character.
The story delivers great laughs that don't detract at all from the film's dramatic elements. You may know what's coming, but you'll enjoy the ride anyway.
My only real complaint is the language, particularly Eastwood's penchant for taking the Lord's name in vain. He may be a foul-mouthed geezer, but it still struck me as excessive and unnecessary.
There aren't many curveballs thrown in "Trouble with the Curve," but that doesn't stop it from being a thoroughly enjoyable movie.
"Trouble with the Curve"
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake.
Directed by: Robert Lorenz.
Rated: PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking.