What our critic loves about flabby men in movies -- Lisa Schwarzbaum enjoys watching actors like Matt Dillon and Kevin Costner playing middle-aged men

Let us now praise flabby men. Or at least actors of a certain age and thickness who, while letting go of their youthful reputations as hunky movie stars, have developed new flexibility of range in middle age playing men who aren’t defined by hunkiness. While fashion and gossip editors keep their photo lenses trained on trendy younger lookers, a whole league of not-quite-so-svelte, no-longer-so-self-serious pros have been doing some of their loosest, most attractive work. Escaping expectations as a boy beauty, Matt Dillon has never been more charming, most recently in Herbie: Fully Loaded. Kevin Costner in The Upside of Anger is pounds more attractive than when he sucked in his gut in The Bodyguard. Alec Baldwin has a second lease on screen life as a literal heavy. And brothers Jeff and Beau Bridges have discovered the joys of girth, something that Randy Quaid has known for years. (While brother Dennis is still a 51-year-old specimen of abdominal discipline, oh my, yes.)

Why actresses of similar age feel constrained to keep themselves unrealistically taut in a parody of feminine sexiness is a topic for a different sermon.