I watched Trouble with the Curve Saturday, courtesy of Netflix, and it was a Major League disappointment. It’s one of those movies that could have and should have been much better. Even a grumpy old Clint couldn’t save this one. His grumps were more entertaining in Space Cowboys and Grand Torino. Both the baseball part of this movie and the father/daughter, Dr. Phil portion are lame.
And the romance is flat and unbelievable, mostly because neither of the characters is particularly attractive or engaging. Hard to see what either of them sees in the other. He’s a nonentity (that scene where he roars of like a jilted teenage girl after the Braves draft the oaf is almost embarrassing to watch), and she’s your generic chip-on-her-shoulder, kick-butt, all-attitude, young female lawyer. What’s to like?
The you-were-never-around-when-I-was-a-kid lament and whine has been done so many times it’s beyond wearisome. It’s not even done well here, assuming it needs to be done again, which it doesn’t. And the visit to the dead wife’s graveside scene was lifted right out of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and is unconvincing. The Duke did it better.
Most disappointing was the baseball part of the movie. The writing here alternates between awful and non-existent. One of the things the luxuriously-paced work of art that is baseball produces among those in and around it is good talk. We get none of this from Clint’s character or from his fellow scouts, both those we see with him in Dogpatch and those back at the shop in Atlanta. There could have been a fount of humor here. But apparently the 25-year-olds wearing propeller caps that Hollywood hires as writers these days know nothing about baseball, have little or no humor, and have no idea how non-professional, non-trendy men of a certain age talk.
We’re told repeatedly that the Clint character is a great scout and knows the game better than anyone. But he never says much of anything to establish that he knows baseball. Again, this is doubtless because the aforementioned twerps don’t know anything about baseball and therefore can’t put words in the mouth of a great scout (or a mediocre one, come to that).
And the central trope that is supposed to establish Clint’s bona-fides as a scout, the idea that only Clint and his daughter could discover that this guy has trouble hitting a curve ball, is absurd. It’s true enough that to hit well you have to keep your weight and hands back as long as possible, and not let them drift forward on off-speed pitches. If you let your hands and body move forward ahead of the pitch, you’ve lost all your power and can’t hit the ball with authority even if you make contact. But nowadays every kid playing ball knows this by junior high school. By high school the oaf in question would have been getting a steady diet of off-speed, breaking pitches, which he would have to learn to hit before he ever saw another fastball. (And with his attitude, the only hummers he saw would have been headed for his ear-lobe.) EVERYONE, including the sideline ball girls, would know he couldn’t hit a curve.
Clint was a more engaging and sympathetic old grump in Grand Torino, a better movie and better personal performance to put a period on a great acting career. Let’s hope we see squinty Clinty on the silver screen again. Neither Clint nor his many fans want this turkey to be his final inning.