By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 17, 2012 at 1:26PM
For someone who has enjoyed such a golden career to date, Oscar-winner Clint Eastwood, 82, seems to be tempting fate, finally. He earned tough reviews for his performance at the Republican National Convention (SNL's inevitable Eastwood-with-chair spoof is below) and deflects questions about his wife's reality show "Eastwood and Company" in Tom Junod's Esquire current cover profile.
Earky reviews are out on his latest movie, Warner Bros.' "Trouble with the Curve," in theaters September 21 (the same weekend "Moneyball" debuted last year). The producer-director-star's own films usually open later in the season. So far, Eastwood's crotchety performance is faring better than the movie itself. With able ensemble support from Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman and Matthew Lillard, Eastwood stayed in front of the camera on this one, allowing longtime producer Robert Lorenz to direct this story about a grumpy old baseball scout (Eastwood) and his relationship with his estranged daughter (Adams) as they scout together on a road trip. The movie takes the exact opposite take on gut instinct vs. statistics as "Moneyball." It's as if Eastwood is playing one of Billy Beane's old guard scouts.
One of Eastwood's smart movies over the decades has been developing close relationships with many top critics around the country; he invites some to early screenings, and they often reward the auteur with friendly reviews, even on his off-days.
Thus Box Office's ever-bubbly Pete Hammond suggests that "Clint Eastwood and a superb cast hit it out of the park," while THR's Todd McCarthy writes, "Playing a sort of PG-13-rated version of his ornery coot in 'Gran Torino,' Eastwood is vastly entertaining as an old-fashioned scout who disdains computers and fancy statistical charts in favor of his own time-tested instincts."
Variety favors Eastwood's co-stars, Adams and Timberlake: "The actors' effortless interplay is full of tetchy, bickersome humor, but also believably steeped in the characters' shared history, the defining incident of which will be unpacked in somewhat heavy-handed flashbacks. Fortunately, the film frequently shifts its focus from Mickey's daddy issues toward her slowly blossoming relationship with Johnny, an expected but winning development that affords no shortage of charming moments between Adams and the ever-appealing Timberlake."
Not on Eastwood's radar is ThePlaylist: "Undoubtedly, many will be left longing for Bennett Miller’s 'Moneyball.' While that film is more baseball-centric than 'Trouble With The Curve,' it was also filled with rich, complex characters that were worth caring about, and better yet, a story that was worth investing in. Unfortunately, we don’t have that with 'Trouble With The Curve,' and we’re left with a film that’s lifeless and below everyone who’s on screen. Lacking narrative momentum, saddled with thin characterizations and uninspired plotting, [it] should've stayed on the bench."