When Mel Gibson drives drunk, screams at cops and everyone else in sight – it hurts his box office numbers. It also makes things distracting when we’re supposed to believe he has a beaver puppet on his hand that he’s talking to.
Clint Eastwood went to the Republican convention and talked to a chair. Now a month later, he puts a baseball glove on his hand, and we’re supposed to believe he’s talking to other scouts in the bleachers and not just an empty chair.
It’s the first on-screen role he’s had in four years and probably his last. He’s said that, and he’s really looking and sounding old (he’s 82 in real life). Surprisingly, that works well for this character – one of the best scouts in baseball, even though age is catching up with him. He doesn’t use computers the way other scouts do. He’s also not so enamored with the best high school hitter in the country. There’s a pitch that kid has trouble hitting, although I can’t remember which one.
Of course, the movie does what poorly written pictures resort to – they make the characters we’re not supposed to like super evil. That means the front office staff of the Atlanta Braves are plotting against Eastwood (aside from John Goodman, his longtime buddy). This means the teenage baseball star has to demean the poor Mexican kid that sells peanuts, refuse to sign autographs, and brag about all the women he sleeps with.
Eastwood’s daughter is played by the always reliable Amy Adams. She’s about to be made partner at her law firm, but Goodman convinces her to go out and help her dad on this scouting trip. They have a love/hate relationship, but when she sees how banged up his car got just getting out of the driveway, she feels obligated (side note: I love this ’65 Mustang much more than his Gran Torino).
Adams meets a young scout played by Justin Timberlake. And because the movie is very predictable, we guess that their bickering will soon turn to love. The date they go on involves two of my pet peeves for movie dates. The scene that requires them taking off clothing and jumping into a lake, and the woman showing she’s the dream date by answering ever sports trivia question you throw at her.
Of course, there are also the scenes we have with old guys getting older in movies – problems at the toilet. Yet the opening scene that shows this was a bit funnier, since it involved Eastwood talking to that porcelain chair.
He didn’t direct this, but gave his longtime assistant director Robert Lorenz his first film to take the reigns. The script is also by a rookie – Randy Brown. I’m guessing he looked at the stats of other baseball films, and pulled many of the clichés from those.
There were a number of interesting scenes. I laughed when a grumpy Eastwood snaps at a friend in the bar. The guy asks “What crawled up your ass?”
Eastwood replies, “Old age!”
There’s some interesting father/daughter dynamics that involve their love of baseball.
I enjoyed a scene where Goodman and Eastwood talk about computers and scouting.
I laughed when Eastwood grappled with a guy in a bar and told him “You’re gonna make me have a heart attack trying to kill you!”
I’m guessing Eastwood is the only person around that’s 80 and can convince you he’d still kick some ass in a bar room brawl.
The sound editors needed to realize…Eastwood may be old and hard of hearing, but the audience isn’t. The sound of the baseballs hitting aluminum bats was painfully loud.
I enjoyed a conversation Timberlake had about his playing days, but wished many of the other conversations in this were interesting. There were a few times the older scouts got together, and they never said anything remotely clever. Baseball may say that if you hit .300 you’re successful – which means 7 out of 10 times you fail at the plate. Those numbers aren’t so great for a film.
This is a predictable sports films, that wasn’t a home run. It was more like a line drive to the short stop. You’ll be thrown out at first, but the audience was excited for a few minutes while you ran it out. It needed to throw the audience a few curves or a change-up or two.
This movie gets 2 stars out of 5. I considered giving it an extra star for casting my friend, and one of the best stand-up comedians working -- Tom Dreesen -- in a small role. I decided that would be a conflict of interest, and stuck with the two stars.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun