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Overall Rating

Awesome: 24.44%
Worth A Look60%
Average: 13.33%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 2.22%

2 reviews, 33 user ratings

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Secondhand Lions
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by EricDSnider

"The way 'family-friendly' movies are supposed to be -- you know, not crappy"
4 stars

"Secondhand Lions" has all the makings of a hokey, ridiculous family-friendly drama, the kind of eye-rollingly oversimplified tale that uses charm to make up for its lack of smarts. I said it has the makings. Somehow, though, it avoids most of the pitfalls, some of the clichés and a good portion of the eye-rolling. It's a good movie, swathed in the clothes of a bad one.

Our young friend Haley Joel Osment, who saw dead people in "The Sixth Sense" and was a robot boy in "A.I.," plays an ordinary kid this time. He's Walter, about 14 and the only child of a chronically irresponsible mother (Kyra Sedgwick) in the 1950s.

As we begin, Mom, a haggard woman approaching middle age and not wearing her promiscuity well, is going to attend the Ft. Worth College of Court Reporting. She leaves Walter in the care of his two old great-uncles, Garth (Michael Caine) and Hub (Robert Duvall) in rural Texas. According to family legend, Garth and Hub are rich, having earned, stolen or found money during the 40 years they were unaccounted for and traveling the world. Mom would like Walter to find this money, if he can, over the course of the summer.

Garth and Hub live a simple life on their dusty plot of land in the boonies. They don't have a phone or television, or anything to do, really, other than aim shotguns at the steady stream of traveling salesmen who come by regularly. (Word of the brothers' wealth has apparently spread beyond the borders of the family.)

Walter is alarmed, at first, by his uncles' eccentricity, which reaches its zenith when they buy an old lion from a circus so they can let it loose on their property and hunt it. Or perhaps the zenith is when they buy a disassembled airplane with the intention of reassembling it and flying it, despite having no previous flight experience. At any rate, Walter and the old guys quickly grow on each other -- this is not, fortunately, one of those movies all about a youngster melting the heart of a crusty old person -- and develop a relationship of real familial compassion, albeit without any of that touchy-feely nonsense.

It's what they call a coming-of-age story, I suppose, and it's bookended by scenes of a grown-up Walter at work as a cartoonist, and then of him visiting the uncles' ranch again. The ending, in particular, is unnecessary, even silly; there is no need for the present-day frame to what is otherwise a perfectly serviceable story.

Caine and Duvall are extremely praiseworthy as the uncles. There's a surprisingly strong dynamic to their relationship; though I never really bought Caine's Southern accent, I completely believed he and Duvall were brothers. They're old coots, but they bring depth to old-coothood.

Osment is a little disappointing as Walter. He's not bad; he's just not as good as you'd expect, given his fantastic performances in the films previously mentioned. Some of this may be the fault of the screenplay (by Tim McCanlies, who also directed), which gives him only a couple of scenes in which to truly act, the rest of the time consigning him to reacting to Garth and Hub's oddness.

It's an altogether funny, charming piece, with much to hold a viewer's interest in an uncomplicated, childlike way. The presence of a lion is bound to keep us watching, as are little elements like a mysterious picture in the attic and Uncle Hub's nightly sleepwalking. It also has an old-fashioned cliffhanger-style adventure story running through it, as Garth tells Walter about his and Hub's exploits in the Middle East during World War I. For much of the film, if we let ourselves, we can become young and curious, too, just like Walter. It's a good feeling.

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originally posted: 09/20/03 05:14:44
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User Comments

2/10/07 Frank Rountree Great characters, good story, i liked it! 4 stars
8/06/06 R.W.Welch Some flicks just have a certain touch. This wry comedy-drama is one of them. 4 stars
10/12/05 Quigley duvall and caine were absolutely superb in their roles; haley kinda had a puberty problem. 5 stars
8/19/05 Captain Craig A really great ORIGINAL film with a tear-jerker ending! 5 stars
8/13/05 ES Damn you Duvall! I want to hate you but these movies are so damn good! 4 stars
7/03/05 Charlie A good ending, clever, but not great. 3 stars
1/31/05 Katherine Frazier This movie actually received applause at the end of it in the theater I saw it in 5 stars
12/25/04 The Mockingbird Not sweet enough to make you puke, but just too sweet to be cynical about 4 stars
11/10/04 staci k. adams THis is one of the BEST movies I have ever seen! I love how it's funny yet clean! 5 stars
8/01/04 DJ Good movie. I enjoyed it. 4 stars
7/04/04 The More You Know toothless, yawning maws have more bark than bite 3 stars
5/28/04 Andy Finally - A recent movie with good writing and acting 4 stars
5/06/04 gray really is somthing in it for everyone 5 stars
4/13/04 Chris What a great family film while not mind blowing it won my heart by having one. 4 stars
4/06/04 Noquielle I thougth the movie was a complete and totally hitbut It hasyou a little bored a the beging 4 stars
3/24/04 Margie Couldn't get over how NOT cute haley joel osment was. My 11 yr. old sister thought it OK. 3 stars
3/07/04 Zach G. Good! 5 stars
2/17/04 othree goddd I hate it when my friend makes me sit thru movies like this! 'Goodnight Johnboy!' zzZ 3 stars
2/12/04 jj a very good family movie about truth, honesty & parentage with good acting, plot & subplot 4 stars
2/10/04 c.r a cool movie and good story! 4 stars
1/02/04 Long River so so 3 stars
10/24/03 Kae Very good, funny too, Haley Joel Osment is growing up, so is his acting ability! 5 stars
10/19/03 KooKuKrazeeKitti go michael caine!!!!!!!!! duvall still got it 5 stars
10/16/03 Popcorn Hunny I was pleasantly surprised. It's really cute! 4 stars
10/14/03 Herb Owen Saw it 4 times (Never did that before!) 5 stars
9/29/03 David Shoulda coulda woulda been hokey, but isn't. Good film, what a way to go.... 4 stars
9/28/03 Kitty B. really cute. really liked michael caine 5 stars
9/25/03 Rose Mesor Kyra sedgshit never fails to fuck up a scene she's in; luckily she has few scenes in this. 4 stars
9/25/03 Katherine A family film that's not animated - Lots of laughs! 4 stars
9/23/03 The F-Bomb STUPID SENTIMENTAL SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
9/22/03 Lord Jiggy A nice flick, some laughs and fine acting. Better than most of the crap available 4 stars
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  19-Sep-2003 (PG)
  DVD: 03-Feb-2004



Directed by
  Tim McCanlies

Written by
  Tim McCanlies

  Michael Caine
  Robert Duvall
  Haley Joel Osment
  Josh Lucas
  Nicky Katt
  Kyra Sedgwick

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