150 Movies in 90 Days: Trouble with the Curve and Despicable Me

July 9: #35, Trouble with the Curve

Because you can never get enough of Clint Eastwood playing grumpy old guys

I love baseball and like romantic comedies, so I figured Trouble with the Curve would be right up my alley. A little family drama is always good, too, and I tend to welcome genre-mashups. The final positive indicator here was Clint Eastwood in his twilight playing a grumpy old man. I think we all love that.

Trouble with the Curve opens with Gus (Eastwood) grumpily trying to pee. After he finishes urinating, he promptly walks right into a coffee table that he apparently doesn’t see and kicks the table across the room to teach it a lesson. Right away, I thought a) “hey, this is me in forty years!” and b) “okay movie, you’ve got my attention.” 

It’s unfortunate, then, that most aspects of the film are just slightly above mediocrity. The acting is fine, with Eastwood settling back into his trusty role as a crochety old guy, Amy Adams deftly handling her role as Mickey, a workaholic lawyer with daddy issues, and even Justin Timberlake not making me want to murder him during the film’s nearly two-hour running time. Timberlake isn’t a “bad” actor, he just gets cast in roles sometimes that cannot fit into. This one (Johnny, a former baseball standout who has become a scout after a career-ending injury), happily, is an exception.

Even his best efforts can’t help awfully-written scenes like the one where he pulls over to watch a bunch of kids play a sandlot baseball game, only to freak them out by loudly commentating the action to the point where he is oblivious that they have stopped playing and started watching him. The kids (“What a weirdo!”) know what he’s doing is strange and unrealistic, why didn’t the screenwriter? 

The baseball stuff is a bit disappointing, too. Sometimes, it is very realistic, especially in terms of how the three main characters banter about players. Other times, it’s completely unrealistic, such as the talk between scouts at Atlanta Braves headquarters, which is too polished and feels like acting, especially when contrasted with the casual, conversational acting found in something like Moneyball.

There are some other issues. The player that Gus, Mickey, and Johnny have traveled to a small southern town to scout is not only poorly cast from an athletic standpoint, but is written with such an effort to make him a stereotypical “cocky athlete” that he instead becomes a huge distraction. They could have taken it down a notch  instead and gotten the point across without having him crazily admonishing his teammates for interrupting his daydreams about signing huge endorsement deals while riding on the bus, like a high school villain in a Disney movie.

The issues between Gus and Mickey are handled beautifully, though, even if it gets a bit one-note because Gus has a tendency to be so withdrawn and awkward that their conversations don’t get anywhere most of the time. As a scout, Gus was always on the road when Mickey was growing up and has not really been much of a part of her life, and both characters are realistically played and written to bring this conflict to life.

Despite all of this and some interesting parallels between father and daughter (both workaholics, both believe that there’s more to making choices than what looks good “on paper”, a theme of the film), the film ends disappointingly, with all of the loose plot ends getting tied up in record speed (even for a film with rom-com elements) and a sequence of near-impossible events that actually cheapen what should be a happen ending. Okay movie, but it could have been much better. Grade: C+

July 9: #36, Despicable Me

"No, no, no...I said 'DART' gun."

So after watching the sequel recently and really enjoying it, I decided to borrow the original Despicable Me from my brother and watch it with the kids. I had pretty high hopes- my brother said it was in his top five kids’ movies, although he also really liked Eight Crazy Nights, so there’s that.

To make a long story short, since I have a crapload of movies to watch and I should get to the point, I was mildly disappointed…but only because the second one is so damn funny. The first Despicable Me is still a good animated family film. It’s got the requisite heartwarming story with a moral to it, along with memorable characters and distinctive, quality animation.

What it lacks that the second film has in abundance is laughs. There are funny moments, but just not in the way that part two has them. The songs by Pharrell Williams (who does the original music for both films in the series) are better than in Despicable Me 2, but the second is better in almost every respect. Better villain, better slapstick comedy, funnier minion moments, and so on. Still, a very good movie to watch with the kids, or hell, even by yourself if you don’t have any. Grade: B-

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