If you can get past its thick layer of syrup and molasses, Secondhand Lions reveals itself as a thoroughly decent family film that anyone can enjoy. It gets a little sappy sometimes, but there's something to be said for a ... more »movie in which Michael Caine and Robert Duvall play eccentric old brothers who take the easy approach to fishing: instead of a peaceful rod and reel, they use 12-gauge shotguns. When 14-year-old Walter (Haley Joel Osment, teetering on puberty) spends an eventful summer with his great-uncles on their vast Texas farmland (he's been dumped there by his delinquent mom, played by Kyra Sedgwick), he soon discovers they've lived lives full of adventure, excitement, passion, and mystery. Either that or they're old-time bank robbers with a long criminal record, and writer-director Tim McCanlies (who invested similar warmth into The Iron Giant) does a nice job of concealing the truth until the very end. Full of enriching lessons and homespun humor, Secondhand Lions has more substance than most family films. If you enjoyed Holes, you'll probably enjoy this movie, too. --Jeff Shannon« less
(4 1/2) A Delightful Time with Duvall, Caine and Osment
Tucker Andersen | Wall Street | 10/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As this film opens, a sullen fourteen year old Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is about to be deposited with his two gruff and irascible old uncles against his will by his mother Mae (Kyra Sedgwick) while she supposedly pursues her education and a career. Hub and Garth McCann, played respectively by Robert Duvall and Michael Caine, are no more enamored of the arrangement than is Walter, but an uneasy truce occurs between them as Walter comes to understand their eccentricities and in fact serves as somewhat of an outlet for Garth's desire to settle down somewhat in his final years. One of the elements twhich makes the film a true delight is the extreme nature of the antics of these "old men", whether it is shooting at traveling salesmen for fun or alienating their relatives to maintain their solitude. The backdrop to the story is that Hub and Garth are rumored to be quite wealthy; and in fact Walter's mother instructs him to attempt to locate the source and location of their supposed wealth. (Perhaps the mafia, or bank robberies, or the foreign legion?)As Walter settles in with them and their numerous dogs (and a pig who thinks he's a dog), the "plot suddenly thickens" as Hub acts strangely and Walter discovers mysterious evidence of a beautiful young woman somewhere in their history. Garth tells Walter a fantastic tale of foreign adventure and intrigue involving Hub and the enchanting princess Jasmine, and the story is actually incorporated into the movie in the form of the adventure epics of fifty years ago with Emanuelle Vaugier playing the role of Hub's lost love. Meanwhile, some "used" circus animals arrive, including a tired and sick old lion who Walter nurses back to health as he enjoys the "jungle" habitat provided by the corn field that has emerged from their failed attempt to grow a vegetable garden. The movie reaches a wonderful climax as the forces of good confront the forces of evil (true comic book style) and Walter is forced to confront the fact that life is full of surprises, not all of which include happy endings, and that we have to be strong enough to accept unpleasant truths and move on.But, of course, any description of the plot doesn't convey the appeal of this film; the storyline is simply the backdrop for the life which is infused into this movie by the superb performances of the stars, the excellent directing, and the way in which the story unfolds. It is fun yet touching, with enough elements of the unexpected interspersed with truly laugh out loud humorous incidents to make the almost two hours fly by. It's hard to know who is more appealing, those old second hand lions Robert Duvall and Michael Caine (who put their superb talents to use in a film they have stated that they really enjoyed making) or Jasmine, the circus lion who late in life was destined for her moment of glory. And the story has a marvelous symmetry, both in the juxtaposition of the opening and closing scenes and in the brief appearance of Josh Lucas as the adult Walter. Finally, the climatic moment is followed by a gradual conclusion to the story which incorporates a truly wonderful finale.In some aspects this is a far from perfect film; in some respects it would be easy to write a critical review detailing the fact that the plot was pure fantasy and that no attempt was made to seriously address many of the issues which the movie raises. But such criticisms would not be consistent with the mood which the movie evoked for me and the remainder of the audience. This movie is about life, about its surprises and its enjoyment, and as corny as it is it is also great fun. I enjoyed it so much that I have chosen to ignore one of my personal reviewing rules; I decided to round up my rating to five stars in spite of the fact that I haven't decided if it is good enough so that I will want to own the DVD. I know that I'll enjoy watching it several more times and decided that was good enough. So, go see this lighthearted film when you want to smile and laugh and feel good about life and it will confirm that whether you're old or a teenager it's still possible to learn and grow and have a good time. Tucker Andersen"
Wonderful family film! Rare these days.
D. COLLIER | Brownwood, TX United States | 10/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This was a great movie. I just saw it last night -- for the second time. With Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, and Haley Joel Osment, how could they go wrong? But there's many a film out there that boasts a multi-talented all-star cast and yet still fails to deliver the goods.SECONDHAND LIONS is not one of them.The story is about young Walter who is just barely in his teens and is sent to live with his two great uncles. He constantly hears rumors of their hidden treasure that they stole from Al Capone, or took from a wealthy Arab, or obtained through a lawsuit, or...whatever you want to believe. Throughout the movie, Walter learns from his uncles, Hub and Garth, how to grow into a man and what the truly important things are in life; and Garth and Hub learn from Walter how to enjoy life to the fullest.The drama here is fantastic, and only once does the emotionalism get a little over-the-top (which is why I gave it four stars instead of five). The acting is fantastic. In this adventurous film you'll be reminded of images of INDIANA JONES, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, among many others....I wish every goofball (i.e. summer blockbuster) filmmaker in Hollywood -- you know, the ones that think creative filmmaking means having alot of CGI characters jumping around on skyscrapers and fighting villains in Power Ranger suits -- would simply sit down and watch SECONDHAND LIONS. Then they would know how to make a good movie."
Zinta Aistars | Portage, MI United States | 04/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It occurs to me as I sit here pondering my review of "Secondhand Lions" that I must somehow cloak the first words that come to mind. Words, phrases, such as "a feel-good movie" or "good family fun" or "heart-warming." As if it were, well, "uncool" to label a movie such things these days, almost like a movie kiss of death. Isn't this a time of Hollywood special effects? Of hot babes and pyrotechnics? Of gratuitous violence and sensationalism? So it is. And so this movie is not. And oh, we are a glad audience for it!Haley Joel Osment, to whom many of us in the movie audience were introduced in "Sixth Sense," plays Walter, a young boy whose mother (Kyra Sedgewick) pursues everything in life but motherhood. He finds himself dumped like excess baggage on the well weathered front stoop of his two uncles' country house. The uncles, played with wonderful eccentricity by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, resist but later embrace their young nephew. How the three bond into a true family is a tale that does indeed warm the heart, lighten the spirit, and perhaps even restore a faded belief in today's cynical world that goodness, yes, goodness, still has a place on the silver screen. Osment is absolutely first rate in this movie, and the two vintage stars, Caine and Duvall, still shine as brightly as ever, if not more so.It may be that the popularity of movies such as this could send Hollywood a message. Good is still good on the movie screen."
A Good Family Movie--So Rare Nowadays
D. Bell | Olney, MD USA | 09/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Secondhand Lions is a movie for almost the entire family, except for young children who might find it a little slow-moving and possibly boring. It combines fine acting, a good story, and real values without resorting to sex and profanity. Basically it is the story of young Walter (Haley Joel Osment), whose immature tart of a mother, Mae (Kyra Sedgwick), dumps him at the home of his two grand-uncles Garth (Michael Caine) & Hub (Robert Duvall). As she leaves him, she tells him that there is a rumor that they were Mafia hit men and have a fortune hidden. "Look for it," are her last words as she takes off, ostensibly to go to the court reporting school in Fort Worth. We eventually learn that she has dumped him before, even in an orphanage.Garth & Hub are eccentrics who shoot at fish in the lake and at the occasional traveling salesmen who come down the road to their house. Although they are not pleased to have the boy, they accept him. He is horrified to learn they have no television, no telephone, no air conditioning. One day a lion is delivered to their farm. They had hoped to hunt and kill the beast, but it is old and lazy and refuses to leave its crate. So of course they adopt it as a pet. Some relatives who have come to try to weasel themselves into the uncles' will let the lion out, and it finds a home in the cornfield, as close as it can come to a jungle. One night he sees Hub sleepwalking with a toilet plunger, which he brandishes like a sword. Garth begins to tell Walter a fantastic story about their youth, in which they were shanghaied from their European travels and commandeered into the French Foreign Legion. At this point we see the young Hub, magnificently portrayed with great panache by the handsome, mustached Christian Kane in a very energetic performance, as he fights with the Legion, often rescuing the less athletic Garth. Afterwards he fights against slavery, falls in love with the beautiful and spunky Princess Jasmine, and battles apparently insurmountable odds to be with her, gaining a fortune in the process. Walter & his uncles grow fond of each other, and an encounter in the general store in which Hub singlehandedly overcomes four young punks armed with knives lends credence to Garth's tale.Mae eventually returns with a sleaze of a boy friend (Nicky Katt) who hits Walter when he refuses to reveal the hiding place of the money. Jasmine, the lion, attacks him to protect Walter.Eventually Mae wants to take Walter home, and he must choose between life with her and life with his uncles.The ending of the movie, which I don't want to reveal, is very satisfying. Josh Lucas appears briefly as the adult Walter, who has become a successful cartoonist with his strip Walter & Jasmine, based on his and his uncles' lives, as they told it to him.All of the actors did a fine job, although I wish that Kane had been allowed to speak his lines instead of using Caine's voiceover for his scenes. I highly recommend this movie and look forward to buying the DVD."
Nothing Second-Hand About this Story
!Edwin C. Pauzer | New York City | 12/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Trying to please a date, I allowed myself to be dragged to this movie. It turned out to be one of those occasions that you're glad you went along. Since I am estrogen intolerant (chick flicks) and many women are testosterone intolerant (manly flicks), this movie strikes a balance.
It begins with two old men performing acrobatics in a biplane over a Texas twilight sky. But on the horizon is a self-centered and irresponsible mother who drops her son with the two great uncles he's never seen before. The disinterested great uncles agree to take him for the summer. The boy notices a trunk his first night in the house and begins to look at the pictures and past of both of these eccentric men. He is intrigued and discovers more about their past with each event he experiences that summer. The more he learns, the closer he gets to his great uncles, and they with him.
When the mother returns to pick up her son, the climax begins, but that would be telling you the end of the story. I recommend you see it instead.
There is humor and action without violence. Language or skin are not a problem either. This movie is highly recommended for all audiences. It's a keeper.
I don't see that woman anymore, but I have shown this to several new dates since! They loved it. "