NEW YORK (CNS) — Clint Eastwood directed and stars in the gentle, though naive, road movie "Cry Macho" (Warner Bros.).

While believers will appreciate the occasional religious detail in the film, salty language and a briefly touched-on backstory about the sexual exploitation of a youngster make it unsuitable for kids.

Eastwood plays Mike Milo, a burned-out, hard-drinking rodeo star in 1980 Texas. At the behest of his ex-boss, rancher Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam), Mike travels to Mexico to locate Howard's preteen son Rafo (Eduardo Minett) and bring him to the States to live with his dad.

The journey that ensues, which finds the pair eventually bonding with a warmhearted cafe owner called Marta (Natalia Traven), is more an amble than a scramble. But there's a kindly tone to Nick Schenk and N. Richard Nash's script, adapted from a novel by Nash, that goes a long way toward redeeming the slow pace and predictable story arc.

Still, the screenplay is sometimes jarringly off-key, especially in early scenes featuring Rafo's wealthy, loose-living mom, Leta (Fernanda Urrejola). Leta not only abruptly attempts to seduce Mike, we learn that she has, in the past, been known to sell Rafo to one of the men with whom she habitually parties. Rafo also has been subjected to physical abuse while living with Leta.

Such utter degradation on the part of a mother seems out of keeping with the otherwise laid-back, and mostly proper, proceedings.

As the plot gets back on track, Mike teaches Rafo how to ride a horse and demonstrates his skill as an amateur veterinarian. A buttoned-up curmudgeon at the outset, he also softens under the influence of Rafo's company — and that of Rafo's pet rooster, Macho.

The fact that, before Mike's arrival on the scene, Rafo has been making a scanty living by entering Macho in cockfights represents another uncomfortable topic over which the picture skims. Happily, the only such contest depicted is broken up by the police before it even gets under way.

At one point, Mike and Rafo take shelter in a little chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This becomes the occasion for Rafo to express his doubts about whether, as a non-Catholic, Mike has any hope of eternal salvation. Less controversially, Marta insists on saying a brief grace before she, her two visitors and the grandchildren for whom she cares dig into the fried chicken Mike has thoughtfully prepared.

Viewers will know where "Cry Macho" is headed from the outset. But the tranquil trek is paved with decency and its destination is friendship.

The film contains mature themes, including child prostitution, brief, mild scatological humor, several profanities, a couple of milder oaths and sporadic crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.