September 24, 2012 -- Clint Eastwood plays an angry old man in this movie about an aged baseball scout who is losing his vision, and possibly his job, to smart-alecky youngsters with new-fangled contraptions called “computers” (as in Sabermetrics as seen in “Moneyball”).
The trouble with this angry old man portrayal is that the movie was released shortly after Eastwood's famous standup comedy speech before the Republican National Convention. This presentation became the most talked-about thing at the convention and parodies quickly sprang up on the Internet featuring a cartoon character from the Simpsons TV show, backed by the headline “Old Man Yells at Chair.” What makes this comparison even better is the fact that Eastwood yells at a table and kicks it across the room in the movie.
In fact, Eastwood's character, Gus, is so old and so ornery and so mean to his very successful daughter that he is not a character that one can generate much sympathy for, even after the big revelation near the end of the film which explains some of Gus' actions towards his daughter, Mickey (played by Amy Adams of “Julie & Julia.” He is also not kind to his boss and friend, Pete Klein (John Goodman of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” He is exactly the kind of angry old man who would yell at a chair.
Gus is not the only obnoxious character in the film, although that would have been more than enough. We're also saddled with a spoiled little fat kid who is trying for a big baseball contract, Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill). Then there is the back-stabbing weaselly baseball executive, Phillip Sanderson (Matthew Lillard of “The Descendants”). That doesn't leave many characters to root for, just Mickey, Klein and Johnny (Justin Timberlake of “The Social Network”), a former player trying to make it as a scout.
Johnny is attracted to Mickey and was formerly scouted by Gus. This makes for a complicated relationship, especially because both Gus and Johnny are scouting the same player (Bo Gentry) for competing baseball teams. Johnny, Mickey and Gus are all in danger of losing their respective jobs at the same time, in part, because of their relationships with each other.
The screenplay is clunky, tired and predictable, with elements borrowed from many movies. Some key areas of character motivation are also lacking. What makes up for this weakness is that the relationship between Gus, Mickey and Johnny is a compelling one, and Mickey and Johnny are very likable characters. These actors all do a fine job with what they have to work with. Most of the unlikable characters are also dealt with in a satisfactory manner in the end, and that helps. Whoever said this is the greatest baseball movie ever made doesn't know baseball movies. This isn't a bad film, but it is far from being a great one. It rates a C+.
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