One of Hollywood’s favorite sons is that of the ‘sports as a metaphor for life’ device. This genre has a hit rate ratio comparable to Nick Young’s assists to field goal attempts. Yup, today’s non sequiturs are brought to you by Philadelphia 76er, Nick Young. Take that logic!
The problem usually occurs when a forced narrative is supplemented by the clichés perceived to be inherently true by powers whom are so far removed from the world in which their story unfolds. The preponderance of inadequate sports movies surely could be avoided by merely removing the hubris in believing creative control trumps quality control. Junior studio executive, Sinclair Worthington, will most likely disagree but screw him and his 6-figure sports car and 7-figure Malibu home. I know ketchup doesn’t belong on a hot dog and I know baseball, which segues me nicely to the latest celluloid disaster.
Int. – square footage impaired apartment. – nighttime
Toby Petersen sits slack-jawed in puzzlement, which would normally not be out of the ordinary (save for the fact that he wasn’t trying to sync his work email to his phone), but had just watched, what should have been a fastball down the chute, “Trouble with the Curve”.
What the fuck?
Eloquent in its brevity, but more importantly, succinct in its accuracy, two key elements that were glaringly absent from any production meeting and or subsequent viewing of “Trouble with the Curve.” Any reasonable auteur or sport enthusiast worth his talcum involved in this laugher and not looking down the double barrel of a swift dismissal for insubordination, should’ve piped up at around…oh let’s say… the opening credits, to suggest the possibility of re-working the script in it’s entirety.
Excuse me, Mr. Lorenz, Mr. Brown. Of the 1,234 times
this narrative has been attempted, I feel like we’re holding
solid at number 1,025. Now if you’ll excuse me,
I will adjourn to the men’s room to repeatedly punch myself in the testicles.
Rather than beat down “Trouble with the Curve” like a Japanese Mariner beats down baby Harp seals, I am choosing to focus on four prevailing transgressions in an attempt to prevent further atrocities.
1. The cliché as a catalyst.
If an impartial observer can guess how your movie is going to end in the first five minutes and it isn’t based loosely off of a true story, perhaps some blue sky thinking may need to be initiated. Not only is the lack of originality in “Trouble with the Curve” an insult to a cinema going public dumb enough to shell out 12 bucks for this paint by numbers exercise, it’s also counterintuitive for advancing one’s career. Unless of course your goal is to navigate the shallow and predictable waters of mediocrity much like myself. Had Felix Baumgartner jumped from the third story of a bank in downtown Buffalo in the same Red Bull kit, we may not hold him in quite the same regard.
Clichés are nice reminders that a driver of Asian ancestry may pull into my lane without warning or that a Caucasian basketball player on a fast break will most likely default to a crisp bounce pass instead of going all Shawn Kemp on me with his balls in my face. They’re caveats, not catch-alls.
At this point, the irony is not lost on me that this article is yet another retread of the lack of originality coming out of Hollywood or that the studio system is lazy in its presentation of material. But at least I didn’t copy and paste critique from four different publications and pass it off as my own. Not yet anyway.
Add one part underdog, one part aging protagonist striving to prove he still has something left in the tank, one part redemption story, one part woman surviving in a man’s world and for some creepy dramatic subtext, one part “sleepers.” Mix together, and voila! Shit pie.
2. Is convincing dialogue important?
Not according to Hollywood. Hell, plausible dialogue is barely mandatory. Trust me when I say that this is all that the dialogue in “Trouble with the Curve” warrants.
Gus: You don’t know anything about scouting.
Johnny: Don’t tell them that.
3. It’s called casting.
Justin Timberlake is not an actor. There it is. Ardent Timberlake ‘fans’ will refute this with the sort of discord reserved for anyone named Sparkle being dismissed from “X Factor” two notes into “Rolling In The Deep.” Let me temper the furor by equivocating that Timberlake’s overall talent is not the issue in question. Few individuals can make a seamless transition from the Mickey Mouse club, to N’sync, to sending a tier one pop star into a lithium like poor decision binge, to reputable actor within the Hollywood ethos. Perhaps the problem is that he feels too homogenized to pull off a character with nuanced complexity. It’s almost as if he’s been Glee-ified (said with requisite jazz hands). He’s a persona that’s not too threatening, with no meetings to attend lest the demons storm the gates, and no track marks to cover up.
Timberlake plays…wait for it… Johnny “the flame” Flannigan, a former Atlanta Braves hurler who was known for (spoiler alert) his ability to “live in the triple digits on the jugs gun”. (By the way, the fact that this has to be explained to Clint Eastwood’s daughter in the film played by Amy Adams is a sure fire way to undercut any credibility to her role as a baseball savant, let alone upright human being). Not to disparage Timberlake further, but if you think he’s pulling that off, then perhaps you’re the sort of person that feels comfortable with Nick Young starting at the 1 for your (insert NBA team here). Oh Nick, why won’t you pass? Accepting Justin “the flame” Timberlake as Craig Kimbrel is like me accepting short, concise prose. Hey oh! Meta joke! Attaching known commodities to a film may guarantee numbers at the gates, but more often than not, it dilutes the process of casting to the character and makes it more of casting a character.
Kevin Costner made Crash Davis his bitch and Gene Hackman could have sold Norman Dale in prison for a pack of Newports. They owned these roles. Justin Timberlake is merely the “new fish” in the world of bad prison metaphors.
One more awful aside, the focal point of our key players scrutiny is a young baseball prodigy known as Bo Gentry. No offense to the young thespian in training who played him, but casting a vernal like John Daly to play a five-tool outfielder with the swing of man unfamiliar with the term “batting stance” is committing the number one sin in sports films. Sorry folks but fat kids don’t steal bases. Speaking of fat kids, John Goodman is also in this picture.
4. Matthew Lillard in anything.
So is Nick Young.