"Trouble with the Curve" is Clint Eastwood's first time in front of the camera without also being behind it since 1993's "In the Line of Fire." Unless you count his performance last month at the Republican National Convention, that is.

Those who don't agree with Eastwood's politics -- and even some people who do -- mocked his monologue with an empty chair, wondering if the old man had finally lost it. He hadn't. And "Trouble with the Curve" proves it. Thank goodness the man reneged on his vow to quit acting after 2008's "Gran Torino."

Here, he plays a similarly grumpy old man. There are a lot of similarities, in fact, between "Trouble with the Curve" and other movies. But the baseball flick gets off to a slow start. The first half-hour is excessively expository and even cliched. It's a late bloomer. Once Robert Lorenz, a frequent Eastwood collaborator making his directorial debut, and screenwriter Randy Brown, also a first-timer, finish clearing their throats, the movie finally takes on a life of its own.

On screen
'Trouble with the Curve'
3 out of 4 stars
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake
Director: Robert Lorenz
Rated: PG-13 for language, sexual references, some thematic material and smoking
Running time: 111 minutes

That first bit is a bit painful to watch, though. The film opens with Eastwood's character, Gus Lobel, trying to urinate. His body is starting to give out on him. It's a big problem, because Gus is a scout for the Atlanta Braves, and he can no longer see a pitch going over the plate.

The team's head of scouting, Pete Klein (John Goodman), loves the old man. He knows the general manager will fire Gus if he messes up his last trip of the season -- and that Gus isn't the kind of man who knows what to do with himself when he's not working. So Pete asks Gus' smart, savvy daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to accompany him on the trip.

Mickey goes, but reluctantly. She's up for a partnership at her law firm and has mixed feelings about her father. He raised her on his own, mostly, after her mother died. But he was never exactly father of the year.

It's predictable that this trip opens old wounds while also providing an opportunity to heal them. But there are still plenty of surprises in store -- along with a lot of pleasures. Not least is watching the old man act. He has a real chemistry with Adams, who makes her career-driven and single superachiever rise above caricature. Justin Timberlake adds much comic relief as a rival scout who has a lot of affection for Gus -- and begins to feel the same for his daughter.

But the movie belongs to Eastwood and Adams, who really move us with this story, too rarely told, of a single father who did the best he could and the daughter who hasn't yet learned to appreciate the effort. "Trouble with the Curve" is funny, sad, wise, all those things we want movies to be. Robert Lorenz and Randy Brown just might be Hollywood's rookies of the year.