I'm no movie reviewer. I couldn't tell you if Trouble with the Curve borrows liberally from The 400 Blows, or if director Robert Lorenz was channeling Scorsese with his tracking shots. Probably not, for both of those. Okay, I'm pretty sure neither of those are true. But you get the point. This isn't a proper movie review.
There are four narratives running through Trouble with the Curve: Clint Eastwood losing a fight with aging; Eastwood trying to reconnect with his daughter, played by Amy Adams; Adams getting romantically involved with Justin Timberlake; and a bunch of baseball scouting.
You're on your own for the first three story lines. I mean, they're steaming garbage. Steaming, boring garbage. But I don't know how to review that properly. It starts with Clint Eastwood talking to his little Josey Wales as he goes to the bathroom, quickly moves to him talking to a can of Spam, and it goes downhill from there. Everything else is predictable. You can probably guess that the movie doesn't end with Adams murdering her dad for a part of the vast scouting fortune he's made over the years. You can take your chances. Maybe you'll like it*!
No, I'm here because I can review the part about baseball for my fellow baseball wonks. Is it worth seeing just for the parts about baseball? Does it say anything interesting about baseball, about the soul of a scout? Is this something that a baseball nerd can appreciate?
Oh, god, I want this guy so bad. Maybe if the Red Sox take him, we can work out a draft-and-trade deal.
That was an actual line from the movie. There might be spoilers after this. I'll do my best to avoid them, but, again, I watched Trouble with the Curve so you don't have to. You're probably safe having it spoiled.
That line was uttered by the ostensible enemy of the movie, a stat-lover played by Matthew Lillard. There was no draft-and-trade worked out, unfortunately. It probably didn't work under the salary cap.
I don't need to see him play! I've got it right here on my computer.
That was another quote. It really was! It was in reference to a high-school player who the Atlanta Braves were considering with the #2 overall pick. Lillard wants him because of his sweet, sweet high-school stats. His mind is made up, and he doesn't want to send Eastwood to scout the player. Why bother? The stats, man. The stats.
He couldn't turn on a typewriter, let alone a computer!
Another actual quote. And it's about Clint Eastwood's character, who is an old and dumb scout who is old and dumb because he can't even make a decision on a high-school player based on his stats. Because this is how baseball works in 2012.
The stats/scout stuff doesn't pop up that often. Really, it's more about the other three stories. Will Adams fall for Timberlake? Will she resolve issues with her father? Can Eastwood accept the inevitable? There were a couple of attempts to reinsert the old school/new school stuff back in -- a romantic interest of Adams tells her that their relationship "looks good on paper" -- but it's a movie about relationships.
The math says he can hit a curve.
The baseball part of the story, whittled down: Eastwood is an old Braves scout, dispatched to report on a high-school kid who is likely to go first overall. Timberlake is a Red Sox scout, and they have the #1 pick. Eastwood has fallen out of favor with the new guard in the Braves' front office, and his career is on the line with this pick. They will know immediately if the pick is successful or a bust. That's the conflict of the baseball part of the movie.
Alright, there will be spoilers after this part. If you don't want to read them, you're free to go, but I can't resist.
The twist: The kid can't hit a breaking ball. The 17-year-old kid can't hit a breaking ball -- "His hands drift" -- which means he never will. Eastwood discovers it, tells the Braves not to draft him, and shares the information with Timberlake, who tells the Red Sox to pass on him with the first-overall pick. The Braves don't listen to Eastwood -- they listen to the stats -- and take him #2.
Timberlake is furious, saying "It's over for me!" because … well, I'm not sure. The Red Sox took another player with the #1 pick, and I guess the hot prospect Timberlake was scouting needed to slide to #155 for him to look good. He thinks Eastwood and Adams conspired against him.
Okay, so this is Hollywood stuff. It turns out Hollywood doesn't represent reality all of the time. You can live with a little fudging. It's what Hollywood does. Fine.
But here come some serious spoilers.
Seriously. Go away if you have any interest in seeing the movie without knowing the ending.
The Braves draft the hotshot kid. He takes batting practice at Turner Field. But there's a left-handed pitcher, whose mom worked at the motel Eastwood and Adams stayed at. He wasn't allowed to play high-school baseball because he got a 'B' in chemistry. He's a combination of Sandy Koufax, Steve Carlton, and Randy Johnson. No, they really say that, but just about his fastball.
Adams sees him pitch after the draft, right before she leaves to go back to Atlanta. He's amazing. The Braves bring him up to Turner Field to face the #2 draft pick during batting practice. The top pick can't touch his fastball, and he also has, wait for it, trouble with the curve.
After the #2 pick has a bad batting practice, Lillard is fired, Eastwood is redeemed, and then some relationship stuff happens.
Those last three paragraphs are really how it ends. So if you're going to watch Trouble with the Curve, go for the father/daughter stuff. Go because you want to see Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams flirt and exchange patter. Don't go for the baseball stuff. They botched the baseball stuff more than any movie since The Scout, and probably more, considering The Scout was a comedy that wasn't meant to be taken super seriously. There's no reason to see Trouble with the Curve for anything baseball-related.
On the other hand, when it comes on cable, take a gander. Because it's kind of funny! In retrospect. At the time, it felt like a two-hour poke in the eye.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go look up stats on my computer because I want to see who will win tonight's games.
* You will not like it.