With beautiful but bland direction and a script that can't help but overstate everything, this film is an odd misstep for Eastwood and his assistant-turned-director Lorenz. Instead of being an intriguing exploration of ageing, the film isn't much more than a trite inspirational drama. Fortunately the solid cast manages to inject some subtle touches here and there that bring out more interesting layers of the issues at hand.
Eastwood plays Gus, a scout for the Atlanta Braves who refuses to admit that he's going blind. And he's also in trouble with his boss (Lillard), who's more interested in computer stats than Gus' finely honed ability to see the potential in young players. As a final test, Gus is sent to scout a rising-star teen pitcher (Massingill). Meanwhile, Gus' high-powered lawyer daughter Mickey (Adams) is up for partnership in her firm. She can barely stand to be in the same room as her dad, but abandons the biggest case of her career to accompany him and help him see this young player, because she's even more adept at spotting talent than he is. Along the way she meets Johnny (Timberlake), a charming scout who helps take her mind off her work and her dad.
This is one of those films that undemanding audiences will think is just fine. It never expects us to think at all, telling us everything that's happening and how everyone is thinking while dropping painfully obvious hints about where the plot is going. So the film feels shallow and superficial even though it touches on some intriguing themes, such as the difficulties of ageing gracefully and mending relationships, or the challenge to move forward without forgetting the old skills.
Eastwood could play this role in his sleep, growling under his breath to show his exasperation with pretty much everyone he meets then shifting into weepy sentimentality right on cue. He's always watchable, but this is hardly a revelatory performance. Adams is more interesting, even if her underwritten character continually makes implausible decisions. But her energy and intelligence wakes the film up along the way, and she even has decent chemistry with Timberlake, who's not much more than a cliché of a wannabe/has-been. As a result, the film might make us smile, but we've forgotten it before we leave the cinema.
Run time: 111 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st September 2012
Box Office USA: $35.8M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures, Malpaso Productions
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 96 Rotten: 96
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Robert Lorenz
Screenwriter: Randy Brown
Starring: Clint Eastwood as Gus, Amy Adams as Mickey, Justin Timberlake as Johnny Flanagan, John Goodman as Pete Klein, Matthew Lillard as Phillip Sanderson, Joe Massingill as Bo Gentry, Robert Patrick as Vince, Ed Lauter as Max, Chelcie Ross as Smitty, Peter Hermann as Greg, Matt Bush as Danny, Scott Eastwood as Billy Clark, Jay Galloway as Rigo Sanchez, Bob Gunton as Watson, Jack Gilpin as Schwartz, George Wyner as Rosenbloom, James Patrick Freetly as Todd, Norma Alvarez as Grace Sanchez, Rus Blackwell as Rick, Raymond Anthony Thomas as Lucious, Josh Warren as Pitcher, Seth Meriwether as Wilson, Bart Hansard as Bo's Father, Patricia French as Diner Waitress, Tom Nowicki as Red Sox GM, Julia Walters as Young Mickey, Tyler Silva as Carlos Sanchez, Darren Le Gallo as Nurse, Clayton Landey as Manager, Matthew Brady as Swannanoa Manager (as Matt Brady), Jackie Prucha as Secretary, Ricky Muse as Jimmy, Tom Dreesen as Rock
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