THOSE OF US who grew up watching Clint Eastwood lighting dynamite with his cigar and asking punks to make his day have a hard time with the new Clint.
The old man who sits on his "Gran Torino" porch drinking beer from a cooler and cursing at encroaching immigrants.
When, exactly, did The Man with No Name decide that his name was Walter Matthau?
He's such a Gloomy Gus in "Trouble With the Curve" that his name is actually Gus - a cranky, aging baseball scout who must partner with his estranged daughter (Amy Adams) when his eyes go bad and he needs help on the road.
The movie is the AARP answer to "Moneyball," which opened with a roundtable of Gus-like dinosaurs being lectured and patronized by young stats-mad baseball innovators.
"Curve" turns the tables. Here, the bad guy is a feckless front office know-it-all (Matthew Lillard) who's sold on the gaudy stats of a high school prospect, and Gus is the unbeatable merger of wisdom, experience and intuition.
"Trouble With The Curve" throws a few breaking balls of its own - the movie is a little bland and relentlessly predictable. We know what's going to happen to the pompous prospect, and his backers in the organization. Gus' evolving relationship with his daughter, still smarting from childhood neglect, is also easy to chart. (Justin Timberlake has a small role as a rival scout and romantic interest for Adams.)
"Curve" turns this predictability into a virtue - giving audiences something reassuringly familiar, powered by an all-star lineup. Hall of Fame cleanup hitter Eastwood, and Adams, Hollywood's leading lovable redhead.
The only disconcerting element is the way "Curve" Photoshops old "Dirty Harry" stills into black-and-white baseball photos to illustrate Gus' scouting history.
It's the old Eastwood, the squinting, wolfish killer. You wonder if he's scouting prospects, or shooting them.