Secondhand Lions
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Secondhand Lions Writer-director McCanlies (Dancer, Texas) squeezes enough sentiment out of this story to rot your teeth, but fortunately he has a good story to tell and a decent cast to play it out. In the early 1960s, Walter (Osment) is terrified when his free-spirited mother (Sedgwick) drops him off for the summer at the rural Texas home of his long-lost great-uncles Garth and Hub (Caine and Duvall). Rumours abound about where these men were for 40 years--in a mental home, robbing banks, travelling the world--but all agree that they have a fortune hidden on their farm. Walter is instantly more interested in these crotchety old men than whether there's a stash of cash, and he teases stories out of the sympathetic Uncle Garth--wildly adventurous tales of battles and romance in North Africa (played out colourfully in flashback). Then Garth makes him ask the frightening Uncle Hub about how the story ends. Meanwhile, the uncles order a "used lion" from a zoo so they can have a good old hunt. But the lion has other plans.

All the story's twists and turns keep us interested, as do the swashbuckling flashbacks. The now-adolescent Osment holds the film together perfectly, standing his ground opposite the gruff-but-loveable Caine and Duvall, who are very good and nicely muted. And casting Lucas as the present-day Walter, as well as Kane as the olden-day Hub, is a stroke of genius. The film also includes side characters who are colourful and funny. Everyone wants the money, and it's no surprise when Walter learns that there are more important things in life. But the script's themes aren't laid on too heavily, and the heartwarming stuff never quite overwhelms the film, despite a few extremely cornball scenes. McCanlies' direction, meanwhile, is sunny and warm, capturing the time and place glowingly and energetically. This is forgivable since we see everything through the memory of the adult Walter (a cartoonist, whose illustrations are brilliantly done by Bloom County's Berkeley Breathed in a Calvin & Hobbes style). And there are some terrific set pieces along the way to pull us in further. In the end there may not quite be enough here to make the film a classic, but it's enjoyable and lively and warm while it lasts.

cert PG themes, language, violence 21.Sep.03

dir-scr Tim McCanlies
with Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment, Kyra Sedgwick, Josh Lucas, Christian Kane, Kevin Haberer, Nicky Katt, Eric Balfour, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Michael O'Neill, Deirdre O'Connell
release US 19.Sep.03; UK 24.Oct.03
New Line
03/US 1h47

Porch rockers: Osment, Caine and Duvall

caine osment duvall

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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall