New Line Cinema, September 2003
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
Fourteen year-old Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is dumped by his flighty mother, Mae (Kyra Sedgwick), on his two great uncles for the summer. The mysterious Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth McCaan (Michael Caine) have reluctantly retired to their Texas farmhouse after years of adventures. The cantankerous old men don't know anything about caring for kids, and advise Walter, "If you need something, get it yourself. Better yet, learn to do without it."
The uncles are rumored to have millions stashed away somewhere and Walter's mother suggests he try to find out where they have hidden it. The uncles spend their days sitting on the porch with their shotguns and entertain themselves by shooting at the steady stream of salesmen who drive up to the old farmhouse. Garth occasionally entertains Walter with tall tales of the brothers' adventures in the French Foreign Legion, and stories of Hub's heroic reputation and sword fights with a desert sheiks over his long lost love, an Arab princess named Jasmine. Hub, who relives old sword fights while sleepwalking, is tortured by the loss of adventure and the woman he once loved.
To relive the boredom of retirement, the uncles buy an old circus lion which they plan to hunt down and shoot. But when it turns out the lion is tame as a pussycat, and won't give Hub and Garth the thrill of adventure they hope for, Walter turns the lion into a pet he names Jasmine. The fatherless Walter finds surrogate fathers in his crusty old uncles, and in turn, gives the lost adventurers a new reason to live: guiding Walter into manhood.
Are any of the tall tales true? And how did the uncles' gain their fortune? These two questions are never fully answered, but that's fine, because viewers will likely enjoy not knowing. The pleasure is in watching these two eccentric old men played by such fine actors. The cast of SECONDHAND LIONS is top drawer. There are many moving and hilarious scenes with Robert Duvall and Michael Caine, who carry this film with their incredible talent.
This is a transitional film for child actor, Haley Joel Osment, (A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and The Sixth Sense) whose voice has noticeably changed. The close of the film shows Walter as a man who grows up to become a famous cartoonist who creates characters resembling his swashbuckling uncles with an old lion. Walter's adult character is believed to have been inspired by cartoonist Bill Waterson and his comic series Calvin & Hobbs. This is a wonderful family movie and I highly recommend it. Rated PG for thematic material, action violence and mild profanity. Running time 1 hour 41 minutes
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