Clint Eastwood stars as an ‘old-school’ baseball scout who is going blind and all-round not in the best of health. His long-time buddy and fellow scout John Goodman (who once played Babe Ruth in a movie) tries to convince Eastwood’s estranged, work-oriented lawyer daughter Amy Adams to help him in his work, or else the higher-ups (principally Robert Patrick) will opt for a younger, more tech-savvy replacement (a slimy Matthew Lillard). Eastwood doesn’t want any help, and Adams is extremely reticent to help out a father who frankly has been borderline absentee over the years, but Eastwood just can’t let this young punk beat him, and it’s all going to come down to the assessment of high school prospect Joe Mssingill, a boorish oaf of a hitter, whom Lillard is already singing the praises of. Meanwhile, Adams gains the attention of Justin Timberlake, an ex-baseball player turned scout for a rival team. Ed Lauter and Chelcie Ross turn up as a couple of crotchety old baseball fans and buddies of Eastwood, whilst Bob Gunton plays Adams’ boss who calls her in at an inopportune time.
There’s nothing wrong with this 2012 sports movie from debutant director Robert Lorenz (a long-time associate of Clint’s) and writer Randy Brown, also a debutant. It’s just not worth seeing, is all. I know I wasn’t too fussed with the dry, statistical story of “Moneyball” (not to mention it was a film about a sporting failure), but this more traditional, antithetical approach to a baseball movie isn’t any more entertaining as a movie. A little less dry, but not any more fulfilling, ultimately. I admire Eastwood’s fondness for simple, straightforward stories with tried and tested themes, but this ain’t tried and tested, it’s got mothballs. Not even Clint as director would be able to do much with this (though it’s probably a bit better than Clint’s own “J. Edgar”). Just look at the scene where Clint recites the words to ‘You are My Sunshine’ at his wife’s grave. Total groaner right there.
It’s a good thing that this film features a lot of talented actors, because the story sure is clichéd and not nearly as emotionally resonant as Eastwood’s boxing movie “Million Dollar Baby”. Casting Matthew Lillard as the ‘new school’ approach of baseball scouting is so blatant he might as well have a twirly moustache for fuck’s sake. The casting of punchable Lillard is almost too good (Even though he has toned down the rubber-faced obnoxiousness of his early performances, the guy is still insanely punchable on screen). Lillard does a good job, but the role is one-dimensional. The more interesting story here is the strained relationship between father Clint Eastwood and daughter Amy Adams (who is older than she looks but still young enough to be his granddaughter), but even it has its problems (if daddy wasn’t around, how did he teach her so much about baseball?), and isn’t emphasised nearly enough anyway. One of the best and most charismatic actresses going around, Adams is really bloody good here, I have to say, and John Goodman scores in his too few scenes. How is it possible that John Goodman has never been nominated for an Oscar? He doesn’t exactly deserve it here, but when has he ever been less than rock-solid in a movie? Justin Timberlake continues to be easy to take on screen, but his role here is uninteresting (By the way, getting back to Adams’ age it might surprise you to know that Adams is quite a few years older than JT. She’s older than she looks, as I said. I should probably stop talking about a woman’s age now).
One of the problems here is that the film’s supposed big-time prospect is painted as a black-hat unlikeable tool, and although he is meant to be such, in order for the film to introduce a more humble alternative, that alternative is completely eye-rollingly, clichéd, and completely tacked-on to boot. I think even baseball fans will be groaning throughout this one. The film really is cliché upon cliché upon cliché, and completely unworthy of its fine cast, which also includes the late Ed Lauter in one of his last roles (he doesn’t look well), Chelcie Ross, Robert Patrick, Bob Gunton, and even George Wyner who I haven’t seen in ages. All fine character actors (well, Gunton is hit-and-miss), all completely wasted here. It’s a film with good actors doing good work in a film that fails to merit their talent and good performances. By the way, why is JT always stripping off in movies? Yes that is a legit question!
You’ve seen this all before, maybe better, maybe exactly the same, but you don’t need to see it again. Yes, it’s an easy watch, but so is “The Bold and the Beautiful”, and I’m not about to recommend you watch that. With this cast, the material should’ve been much better, but I guess there’s only so much you can do with an empty chair, right Clint?.