Trouble with Trouble with the Curve

In honor of the late Roger Ebert, probably the best movie critic of all time, I decided to take the time do a movie review today. Well, kind of.

It didn’t take me long to realize I was going to be disappointed with “Trouble with the Curve,” the 2012 movie where Clint Eastwood plays a baseball scout.

I recorded it on my DVR and waited almost a week for the chance to sit down and watch the movie, which I thought was directed by Eastwood since he has pretty much directed every film he’s appeared in the past two decades or so.

Eastwood in a movie about baseball seemed like a perfect recipe for greatness, I figured. Boy was I wrong.

The key to any good movie, as my buddy P.R. always says, is low expectations. This time, though, expecting the movie to be great wasn’t the problem I had with it. My problem was that the makers of the movie really just didn’t understand the sport they were making a movie about.

Why can’t people who make sports movies have somebody who actually knows at least a little something about the particular sport watch the movie before it hits theaters? In this case, that simple act could have helped turn a merely watchable movie into a pretty good movie.

The first sign of trouble came early — during one of the first game scenes — when the camera focused on an umpire who did the full Enrico Palazzo strike three call … after a swinging strikeout.

The rip-the-paper strike is only supposed to be used when a batter goes down looking. Even Det. Frank Drebin knew that. Even some Mariners fans know that.

Had somebody like, I don’t know, me been there, I could have said, “Um, Mr. Eastwood,  sir, the umpire does not do that when he swings and misses. Maybe we should change that scene.”

That might seem like a subtle mistake to the average person. It’s not to a moviegoer who went to watch a baseball movie.

I decided to give the movie the benefit of the doubt, however. After all, we’re talking about the guy who played Josey Wales, Dirty Harry and Philo Beddoe, for crying out loud.

Then came the scenes with Matthew Lillard, a guy who has contributed to the ruining of two potentially good baseball movies.

Lillard played the wannabe GM of the Atlanta Braves, and he really wants the team to draft tubby high school star Bo Gentry, who is less believable as a big league prospect as the fat kid from “The Sandlot.”

I decided the show was going to be a waste of time when Lillard exclaimed that this fat kid was a five-tool player, apparently not knowing that running — and running fast — is one of the “tools.”

The other “tools” are hitting for power, hitting for average, fielding ability and throwing ability, by the way. One or two Mariners fans can tell you that.

Maybe, I could have suspended disbelief and pretended the guy who looked more suited to playing the tuba than trying to hit a baseball was the next Albert Pujols, as they kept saying. Pujols is one of the all-time greats, but even he’d tell you that he is not a five-tool player.

Gentry was just a tool. Sure, I get that they were trying to make him seem like a major jerk. The problem is they went more O’Doyle rules than Barry Bonds on the bad-guy meter.

Never for a second did you believe the kid could ever be considered a top prospect. Not even as an offensive lineman.

Of course, Lillard was also supposed to be an unlikable character in the movie. He was the guy who relied on his computer to tell him how good players are. He had no use for scouts.

That was an obvious uninformed shot at Billy Beane and guys like him, as if “Moneyball” guys don’t ever watch the game. Using statistical analysis in scouting doesn’t mean getting rid of scouts in favor of an iPad app.

The role, though, wasn’t even close to the worst role Lillard ever played in a baseball movie, and neither roles were particularly his fault.

The guy best known for playing Shaggy in “Scooby Doo” and one of the bad guys in “Scream,” played Billy Brubaker, a catcher in “Summer Catch,” a 2001 movie about the Cape Cod League starring Freddy Prinze Jr.

(Note: This is the point where I hand over my man card for admitting to ever watching a movie starring Freddy Prinze Jr.)

Brubaker didn’t like to use wooden bats, as they do in the Cape. He hated them so much that he broke a bat over his knee and screamed about how much he hated wooden bats after striking out swinging.

For the past 12 years, I have wondered if the movie director really thought the adjustment from metal to wooden bats was because they were harder to make contact with.

The problem is you don’t make as good of contact with wood, and contact might go for a hit in college is a broken-bat groundout in the pros. Using wood doesn’t make you swing and miss.

I also had a hard time getting over the fact that the Philadelphia Phillies scout (John C. McGinley) was always wearing suspenders.

I could not get over the fact that the guy posting Ks on the wall for Freddy Prinze Jr.’s strikeouts would occasionally put the K up backwards for a swing and a miss in that movie. Unless you’re a Mariners fan, you know the backwards K is for going down looking. You know, when the ump goes all Enrico Palazzo.

Of course, the movie did feature a 19-year-old Jessica Biel, so it is worth watching three or four … dozen times. I suspect Biel’s role is the only reason the great Curt Gowdy played himself in that horrible flick. At least I’m going to keep telling myself that.

Likewise, red-headed cutie Amy Adams played Eastwood’s daughter in “Trouble with the Curve,” making the movie worth sitting through all 111 minutes.

Both those baseball movies were better than “Fever Pitch,” the 2005 movie in which Drew Barrymore was allowed to profess her love to Jimmy Fallon after running across the field at Fenway Park during a playoff game. The police let her give Jimmy a kiss, while wearing handcuffs, before they carried her off ever so gently.

Of course, had the directors of the movie, the Farrelly brothers, attended a game at Fenway Park before the making the movie they would have seen a totally different reaction to a fan running on the field.

You don’t get to wear handcuffs on the front on the way out of the stadium if you run onto the field at Fenway. Instead you get a boot of one of Boston’s finest on the back of year head or neck — pushing your face into the dirt — while you get your hands cuffed behind your back.

Having Drew fly in on a pink unicorn would have been an equally believable ending to that very bad movie.

There’s so many other things wrong with “Fever Pitch,” which led to a generation of pink-hat fans who tarnished a franchise forever. However, I don’t have enough time to cover even a quarter of them.

On a side note, the worst crossings of sports and Hollywood came on the TV show Chicago Hope, the wannabe ER rival in the 1990s.

On the one and only episode I ever watched, one doctor told another that one of the new draft picks by the Bears was brought in after a crash or shooting or something. The young man had to have his leg amputated.

“What position does he play?” the other doctor asked, bracing for the bad news. After a long, dramatic pause the doctor answered, “He was a kicker.”

I’m not kidding. They actually devoted a scene to the idea that it is worse to lose your leg as a kicker than it is as a wide receiver, running back or strong safety.

“Trouble with the Curve,” which Ebert gave three stars and a thumbs up, wasn’t that silly, but my favorite part of the movie really was seeing the credits role.

That’s because I learned that the great Clint Eastwood was not the director of the movie, as I assumed he was. It turns out he only produced it.

Phew. I knew William Munny couldn’t mess up a movie that bad.

The next night, I cleansed my baseball movie soul by watching “Field of Dreams” for the 1,376th time.

That movie is my favorite of all time, and this time it had a little more meaning.

Somehow, the flick about ghosts playing baseball in a cornfield in Iowa was more believable than the baseball movie I watched the night before.

— Sportswriter Bill Foley, who sobbed like a little girl at the end of “Field of Dreams” … again, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 4 comments



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4 Comments

  • John Emeigh
    June 11, 2013, 9:51 am

    Also Justin Timberlake’s acting in the film had all the subtlty and believability of Joe Niekro tossing away that emory board.
    Terrible film!

    REPLY
  • Righty O'Doyle
    June 12, 2013, 4:43 am

    Mr. Fal… Mr. Foley I just wanted you to know that a few years ago I worked with a Red Sox fan and trust me, he was just as obnoxious and annoying as Jimmy Fallon was in “Fever Pitch”, so that movie wasn’t really THAT far fetched. Since seeing that movie I basically see every Red Sox fan as an unfunny Jimmy Fallon.
    “Trouble with the Curve” was a disapointment. The movie should have been an ABC Family movie of the week but the flick got some attention at the box office because Dirty Harry and Walter Sobchak were in it.
    May I suggest “Billy Madison” for your next movie review, then maybe you won’t screw up the reference.

    REPLY
  • Bill Foley
    June 12, 2013, 6:28 am

    Thanks, Lefty. I can’t believe I said O’Boyle in stead of O’Doyle. I made the correction.

    REPLY
  • Bruce Sayler
    June 14, 2013, 10:12 pm

    Point one: When I watched the movie I didn’t know it was supposed to be an accurate depiction of the World Series, so I liked it.
    Point two: I’ll have to remember to expect Citizen Kane the next time I go to an MLB game.
    Point three: I thought Eastwood and Adams did an excellent job portraying shared character traits in father-daughter dynamics, which is what I thought the movie was about.
    Point 4: The Timberlake role would not actually exist as former bonus babies don’t know about the outer reaches of baseball and so would be useless as beating-the-bushes type scouts.
    Point five: The Lillard character is probably next in line for the Mariners GM job.
    Point six: His overrating of his favorite prospect, I think, was to display in the movie his incompetency as a baseball front-office exec.
    Point seven: Billy Beane was an actual ballplayer and so knew enough about the game to put the computer use to work. Most such computer literates don’t know that much about sports. Remember our troubles with Frontier Conference football stats in prior years?
    Point eight: The pitching prospect was embarrassingly unbelievable, superceded only by her ability to catch the fireballer.
    Point nine: Dead-on, however, was the way the developed detection talents of old-school type scouts and how they can flush out actual talent were included.
    Point 10: As a baseball movie, no, it was not Hall of Fame material. But as a light, entertaining watch, really not so bad at all.

    REPLY

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