The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Trouble with the Curve

I really like baseball. I also really like just about any movie Clint Eastwood has ever done. So naturally I should like a movie that combines the two things, right? Right?!? Yeah, that's what I thought, but it didn't quite turn out that way. I had modest expectations going into 2012's Trouble with the Curve, but it was surprisingly bad.

A longtime scout for the Atlanta Braves, Gus Lobel (Eastwood) has made a career out of being able to analyze a baseball player's skills and tell if they'll be able to cut it in the Majors. His contract is about to expire, just a few months away, and though he's unaware of it, the Braves are trying to decide if they should re-up with him. With the first-year player's MLB Draft fast approaching, Gus has been tasked with scouting Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill), a power-hitting third baseman projected to be either first or second pick overall. The Braves have the No. 2 pick so Gentry could fall to them, but Gus has a serious issue. He's starting to lose his vision but refuses to get any help. His daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), an associate aiming to be a partner at her law firm, takes a few days off to accompany her Dad and help him out if possible. Their relationship is to say the least strained though, and both are working through some past and current issues, the draft approaching ever faster.

I really thought this was a can't miss kind of film. No, not an all-time classic that would rejuvenate my love of movies, but a good, old-fashioned story about family and baseball and all that good stuff. So as I mentioned, modest expectations, nothing more. Even then, I came away extremely disappointed. Basically all the reviews made a clear distinction. The script from Randy Brown is schmaltzy, sappy, too darn sweet, and oh so darn heartwarming. Everyone admitted it, but it seemed to divide the reviews. Some people said all those things and liked it (I didn't see many "love" reviews) while others said all those things and came away disappointed with a dull, cheesy movie. I'll give two guesses, but you'll only need one. Which camp do you think I'm in? 

It doesn't take a genius to watch the trailer and figure out it's going to be all of those things I mentioned above (watch the trailer below at the end of the review). I figured it would use that as a jumping off point, a springboard to bigger, better and more. Yeah, about that.....nope, it just doesn't happen. A movie that runs 111 minutes plays like one big after school special. A torn apart family, wounds still fresh and unresolved, a chance to come together and get a shot at some redemption, it gets tedious by the second or third confrontation between Eastwood's Gus and Adams' Mickey (named after Mickey Mantle). Mickey wants to deal with their checkered past, Gus a single dad who worked a lot and tried his best but really pawned off his little girl on family. It takes too long to get anywhere, it's dull getting there and the resolution is more than just predictable. You can predict it now. Go ahead, try it.

As the plodding story moved along, I kept waiting for this movie to get better. If nothing else, the talent assembled would make it worthwhile, or so I thought. It didn't. Eastwood came out of acting retirement to star here, but he's playing that same gruff, growling old man he's done in Gran Torino and any number of other movies. It's not a bad performance, just a familiar one that isn't particularly interesting. Adams tries her best here to bring it all together, a woman who's spent much of her adult (and child) life trying to adjust and cope with what happened to her as a kid. Her chemistry is okay with Eastwood, but far too much time is devoted to her 'Will they? Won't they?' possible relationship with Justin Timberlake's dreamy young baseball scout, Johnny. So Mickey is trying to help (read = save) her Dad, but her Dad is the one that's helping her out too, everyone learning a lesson in the process? Gag me.

Also look for John Goodman as a higher-up Braves official and a close friend of Gus, Robert Patrick as the Braves general manager, Matthew Lillard as a younger scout who's embraced all the stats of scouting rather than the personal analysis of watching a player, and Ed Lauter, Chelcie Ross and Raymond Anthony Thomas as fellow crotchety baseball scouts.

More than anything, I had an issue as a baseball fan of a baseball movie that doesn't know the sport it's writing about. The Red Sox are going to send an inexperienced scout like Timberlake's Johnny to scout the possible No. 1 player in the draft? And Bo is a five-tool player? He's slow, chubby and is supposed to be the next Albert Pujols? Yeah, I'm not buying it, the character an unlikable caricature. Those are all issues but nothing that would ruin a movie. That comes in the finale, a ridiculously forced ending that would happen in no real world of professional sports with millions of dollars on the line. Big, broad characters -- for good and bad -- and a story that's going to get where it wants to get, making sense be damned. A huge disappointment.

Trouble With the Curve (2012): */****


  1. "Are you saying Sammy Davis Jr is a better actor than Robert DeNiro?" Worse dialogue ever.

  2. Thank you! Trying to be cutesy is one thing. So desperately trying to be cute that the movie becomes painful? Yeah, someone ain't doing their job right.