"Trouble with the Curve" piddles and plods through a bland but harmless plot, then suddenly springs to life at the end.
The film stars Clint Eastwood as Gus Lobel, an aging baseball scout with failing eyesight. The gruff old widower won't discuss his problems - not even with his daughter, Mickey, a hard-working lawyer frustrated by the way Dad keeps her at a distance.
There's enough conflict here for a decent story - especially when Mickey (Amy Adams) jeopardizes a promotion to go on the road and help Dad out; and when the two run into one of Gus's old recruits (Justin Timberlake), who starts crushing on Mickey.
Clint Eastwood, right, and Amy Adams are shown in a scene from “Trouble with the Curve.”
But writer Randy Brown can't seem to give this material much sparkle or originality.
There's a stop-and-start feeling to the way he lays it out - a sense of disproportion: Some situations get far too much attention, others not enough; and the details aren't always clear.
For example, who are the other scouts in the stands with Gus? Why is everyone looking at this one high school kid, in game after game?
For that matter, just what are the mechanics of baseball scouting? There aren't many movies on the subject - and "Trouble" misses a key opportunity to enlighten us on this intriguing aspect of America's favorite sport.
Far too many scenes end with Mickey storming off after Gus has once again demonstrated his hard-heartedness. And toward the end, Brown provides an ostensible explanation for why Gus seems to have shut Mickey out; but it's far too simplistic - as though he wants to redeem Gus without forcing him to face his own shortcomings.
The dialog is banal, the character conflicts give off no sparks and the sport might as well be bocce for all the excitement it provides. It's hard to make baseball boring onscreen, but "Trouble" somehow manages to do so.
Until the end, that is.
The final scenes, with their inevitable solution to the story's various issues, come rather pleasantly out of left field (if you'll pardon the expression); even though it solves too many problems all at once, the resolution is thoroughly satisfying and a lot of fun to watch.
As for the cast: I'll cut slack to any film with veteran character actor Ed Lauter ("Seabiscuit," "The Artist," "Magic," "Family Plot") - though he doesn't have much to do here.
Eastwood is unusually strong in several scenes, especially the one at his wife's grave (but I wish Brown hadn't forced him to recite "You are my sunshine"; this simply does not work). Indeed, Eastwood, Adams and Timberlake bring more depth and life to this material than it deserves; and the ending won't leave you feeling ripped off.
But let's hope Clint commits to a few more films; "Trouble with the Curve" would make a lousy swan song.