Secondhand Lions

  Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment, Kyra Sedgwick, Nicky Katt, Josh Lucas
Director:  Tim McCanlies
Screenwriter:  Tim McCanlies

Secondhand Lions is relatively pleasant family fare but it totally lacks dramatic tension. It’s main characters (Caine and Duvall), advertised as eccentrics, are rubber-stamped and not as interesting as director-screenwriter Tim McCanlies would have you believe. The result is a rather ho-hum movie.

A self-absorbed and unreliable mother (Kyra Sedgwick as Mae) learns that her uncles Hub (Duvall) and Garth (Caine), missing for 40 years, are now back living in Texas and have come into a great fortune. Her plan is to dump her shy and unhappy 14 year old son Walter (Haley Joel Osment) on them one summer in the 1960s in the hope that the men will take a liking to him and will their money to the boy and his mother. What she doesn’t know is that other relatives are waiting in line for the elderly gents to drop dead and that they spend their days shotgunning traveling salesmen.

We’re lead to believe that Hub and Garth don’t like kids but you’d never know it from the incredibly short setup. They tell Walter to stay in “the tower”, really the attic of their dilapidated farmhouse, but a few minutes after that, Garth is regaling the boy with colorful swashbuckling tales of his and Hub’s youth in the French Foreign Legion and Hub’s marriage to a princess all told in flashback and made to look like a cheesy TV movie. Walter eventually has an influence on the men when he entices them to actually listen to what one of the traveling salesmen has to offer. And this is where the “eccentricity” and the film’s title comes in. After that, fatherly affection and advice get dispensed but much of it’s shallow, like the whole movie.

Lotta says:   It sounds like a lotta fun, particularly with the flashbacks, but in execution, it’s pretty boring. Osment, at age 15, a year older than his character, has lost much of his magical youth appeal and wonderment. A younger actor might have been a better choice. Duvall has the more flashy role of the two uncles, but there just wasn’t enough meat in those roles to make what should have been a riveting drama with all this talent. Also features Josh Lucas as an adult Walter and Eric Balfour as the Sheik’s grandson.

Studio:   New Line Cinema

DVD Features:  Commentary by director Tim McCanlies, deleted and alternate scenes, screenplay documentary, Haley Joel Osment featurette, making-of featurette, effects featurette, trailers, TV spots
Video Format:  Widescreen, fullscreen
Audio Tracks:  Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Number of Discs:   1
Subtitle:   English, Spanish
Closed-Captioned:  yes

Reviewed February 2004