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In case you need reminding, as of last week, Jason Griffenhagen is BACK on detail of reviewing whatever movie captured America’s heart and dollars the most the week before. We could not be happier to have him back. Enjoy:

Slightly better than hanging out with your cranky, bitter grandfather for 2 hours

Getting old must really suck. I mean REALLY suck. Your balls drop to the floor, your pubes turn grey, you lose the ability to be on American Idol. It’s the cruel tide of time; one day you have a firm sack, a luxurious mane of short and curlies, you’re discussing the Gaza crisis with Seacrest between the commercial breaks, and the next your body looks like a melted candle that smells like camphor.

It must make one bitter. Extremely bitter. Like sucking on a gangrenous foot bitter.

But what are you gonna do? Go out to pasture, end it all? Sit in a well worn chair that smells of FiberCon farts and watch Howie Do It* until you expire? I don’t know about you, but I’m going with the time tested “hole up in a cabin in the woods and write a manifesto” gambit.

Clint Eastwood, however, continues to make movies. And maybe he should stop.

*Better hurry. Howie just got admitted to the hospital for an irregular heartbeat. Canadian flags are at half mast today.

The plot of Gran Torino sounds like a pitch for a Norman Lear sitcom: A cranky, recently widowed Korean War veteran has a family of Vietnamese move in next door. The shy kid next door tries to steal his car, and then has to be his servant! Hilarity ensues! And for most of the movie hilarity DOES ensue. This movie is not the deep, hard hitting drama that the previews and commercials make it out to be. From the first moment of the film in which Clint Eastwood’s grimacing weathered face is seen in close up scowling at everyone like they just knocked his last Nutty Buddy out of his hand, you can’t help but laugh.

And at least most of the laughs in this film are on purpose. It’s not farcical comedy, but a comedy of manners. See the old grizzled grump scowl at his neighbors. See him be uncomfortable with the customs of other people. See Clint rage at everyone for not being as manly as he is. See Clint use every racial epithet in existence. Some of the laughs, however are at the appallingly bad acting by the majority of the supporting cast, especially the shy teenage boy next door, Thao(Bee Vang), and the overly earnest priest(Cristopher Carley).

Where Gran Torino succeeds, and succeeds quite well is Eastwood’s performance. And that’s because it is essentially the same character he’s been playing since his days of the Man with No Name and Dirty Harry: the scowling, abrasive badass that we’ve all come to know, love, but also EXPECT from him. This very well could be Dirty Harry: The Retired Years.

And where the film fails is when it tries to become deeper than it is. The ham-handed directing and screenplay are something straight out of Hollywood Moo-Vee School. Where it should be the story of an old man trying to right wrongs through vigilantism, it tries to be a commentary on life, death, and what it is to be a “man” in today’s society. You want to say to Clint: “Stop trying to be IMPORTANT and start kicking ass.” Don’t give us trite images of yourself in a totally unsubtle Jesus Christ pose. Take a lesson from Stallone’s revisitation of Rambo; give us scenes where you cave in a gangbanger’s skull with a pipewrench and blow people away with a gigantic hand cannon. That’s what we want out of you. At least that’s what I want out of Clint.

So although I’ve been on this earth less than half the time you have, Mr. Eastwood, I have a suggestion for you. Fold up your director’s chair. Concentrate on acting. It’s hard for old people to multitask, what with the lack of concentration and memory loss. That’s why I’m stocking up on Gingko Biloba. I recommend everyone do the same.

P.S. AND STOP SINGING. You sound like a William Hung with laryngitis gargling concrete through his throathole.

My Reaction: Ok (2.5 out of 5)

Next week: Paul Blart: Mall Cop. For all those folks who want more Kevin James since King of Queens went off the air. Great! Til’ then I’m sucking on a lemon. Stay bitter, kids

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