Director: Robert Lorenz; Screenwriter: Randy Brown; Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Robert Patrick, Matthew Lillard; Running time: 111 mins; Certificate: 12A
Perhaps too much snarling for the camera over the years has fixed the expression on Clint Eastwood's face, obliging him to take grumpy old man roles. After chasing youths off the lawn in Gran Torino, he plays a veteran baseball scout in Trouble with the Curve - a man who refuses, point-blank, to get with the times and indulge his daughter (Amy Adams) in talking about his feelings. Grrr...
The onset of glaucoma does nothing to improve Walt's temperament and, anyway, it's more fun to kick furniture out of the way instead of walking around it. His snivelling boss (Matthew Lillard) and best friend Pete (John Goodman) don't know the worst of it, but Walt is facing retirement because he doesn't do the "interweb" or believe in computerised methods of spotting new talent.
Mickey's mother died long ago and Eastwood breaks type by shedding a tear at the graveside while croaking the words to 'You Are My Sunshine'.
Lorenz pushes too hard to show us his softer side, and Mickey often comes across as self-pitying. Justin Timberlake pops up like a grinning jack in the box to loosen her up and apparently, that's his only function after an injury ends his baseball career.
Mickey really has no right to look so sour, because her luck is uncanny. Every knockback in her life is immediately followed by a glowing window of opportunity, but her scenes with Timberlake are as flat and clunky as the 'clog dance' they share at a local drinking hole. She has a more convincing rapport with Eastwood, keeping her chin up with every verbal swipe he takes at her.
Things get a touch embarrassing, though, when Mickey finally hits Walt with the baggage she's carried since he abandoned her as a child. It isn't the public display of emotion, but the total lack of elegance in the storytelling that grates on the nerves. Every move is perfunctory, including the last act revelations which come out of leftfield and still fail to knock you off your feet.
The whole trajectory of the story might have been mapped out by one of those new-fangled computer programmes that makes Walt grit his teeth - complete with sporting metaphors. In the dying minutes so many loose ends are quickly tied into pretty bows that you could forgive Eastwood for lashing out, but he simply grins and bears it. And frankly, the look doesn't suit him.