The plot couldn’t be more cornball. Atlanta Braves scout Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is feeling his age. His failing vision makes it even harder to fool colleagues like Pete (John Goodman), who doesn’t want the old man put out to pasture. Enter Mickey (Amy Adams), Gus’s lawyer daughter who resents him for a lifetime of neglect. Gus hates that his workaholic kid is taking time off to accompany him on a scouting trip to North Carolina so he doesn’t make an ass of himself. But Mickey gives Daddy no choice. Just when Gus thinks Mickey will never find the right guy, up pops charm boy Justin Timberlake as Johnny, a hotshot scout from the Boston Red Sox. He seems made to order.
In fact, everything in the script by first-timer Randy Brown seems made up of spare parts from inspirational TV movies. More significantly, the two-time Oscar winner for directing (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby) isn’t calling the shots this time. That job goes to his longtime friend and producer Robert Lorenz, making his debut in the director’s chair. Lorenz whips up a slick, commercial package, but he can’t disguise the film’s sappy premise.
And yet, it almost doesn’t matter. That’s because Eastwood and Adams are just so much damn fun to watch. Adams, with three Oscar nominations on her resume and a new one coming for The Master if the Academy doesn’t drop the ball, is on a career roll. She takes the clichéd part of the unloved daughter and gives it urgency, sharp humor and genuine feeling. Good job.
Eastwood, 82, doesn’t hide the fact that he’s basically recycling his gruff character from 2008’s Gran Torino, the gun-toting Detroit widower who warned interlopers to “get off my lawn.” But there’s a crucial difference. As actor and director, Eastwood gave Torino a no-bull, hard-ass tenacity that wasn’t afraid of dark corners or unruly emotions. Lorenz shows an aversion to making waves. He makes Trouble With the Curve a tidier piece of mainstream business. Still, there’s no denying the connection Eastwood makes with Adams. They have an irresistible talent for the game.