Movie Review: 'Secondhand Lions'

by Rich Brooks

15 April 2004

"Secondhand Lions" is a 2003 comedy now out on video. Starring Michael Caine and Robert Duvall as two eccentric bachelor uncles and Haley Joel Osment as a shy, taciturn teenager, it is one of those "family" movies that has received a much better response from audiences than from critics. You see, there isn't much "diversity" on display (with the exception of one stereotyped Arabian sheik, all characters in this movie are White) and writer/director Tim McCanlies has given us a script without the usual cynicism and irony most jewsmedia critics seem to crave.

The story is set in rural Texas sometime in the early 1960s, and the opening scene shows a "trailer-trash" mother driving with her 14-year-old son Walter (Osment) across the dusty plains in a big old tail-finned Cadillac. I don't like to throw around the term "trailer-trash" too loosely, but you know the type of woman I'm talking about and I can't think of any better description for this character played by Kyra Sedgewick. She wants to do the right thing for her boy, but she is always getting involved with the wrong type of man and is unable to provide a decent and stable home for him. It is her bright idea to drop her son off at the ranch of his two great-uncles, while she supposedly is going to enroll in a "court reporting school" in Ft. Worth.

These uncles both have mysterious pasts involving exotic foreign locations, but the two brothers are now secluded in a large, dilapidated house without telephone or even television. They are not friendly to strangers, to say the least, and there are a series of "no trespassing" signs on the private road leading up to their property. Hub (Duvall) and Garth (Caine) now spend their days sitting on their front porch with loaded double barrel shotguns waiting to shoot at any salesmen brave enough to drive past these signs. In spite of their humble living circumstances, Hub and Garth are rumored to have a large stash of money accumulated either from their former adventures in North Africa as members of the French Foreign Legion or (as many locals believe) from past criminal activities. Anyway, all of their relatives, including Walter's mom, are scheming to inherit some of this alleged fortune. The real reason Sedgwick is leaving her boy at the uncles' ranch is so he may hopefully ingratiate himself and be included in the will. There are other relatives, however, who would just like to find out where the cash is buried and simply steal it.

Hub and Garth aren't exactly friendly to the mother and boy, because neither wishes to be tied down with a "sissy boy" for the summer. They reluctantly agree to take him in, however, and of course a bonding relationship occurs, especially between Caine's character and the young lad. As the two crusty old men begin to open up, young Walter is also drawn out of his shell. The boy wants to learn more about his uncles' adventuresome past, and we are presented with a series of flashbacks with some stylized scenes reminiscent of some of Errol Flynn's swashbuckling movies.

There are the greedy relatives from hell who drive up in their garish 1958 Imperial and try to plant themselves on the property. Hub and Garth are now glad to have the boy, because it really irritates these relatives. There are cute dogs and a pig who thinks he's a dog, and there actually is an old "secondhand lion" that the uncles at one point purchase from a zoo. Much of this could be considered hokey were it not for the presence of Caine and Duvall, two of the finest actors plying their trade today.

As it is, Caine and Duvall add a depth to their characters that is lacking in the script. Caine, who of course is an Englishman, does an effortless job of impersonating a Texan while Duvall is as convincing here as he is in every other role he plays. They manage to avoid a cloying "gee whiz" sentimentality which could easily have infected this picture. Osment plays the part of the boy without coming across as overly cute, a common tendency of child stars that I find particularly annoying.

"Secondhand Lions" is a warm and fuzzy flick which will often make you smile or chuckle but won't induce loud horse laughs. Unlike so much of jew-produced "comedy," the humor here is never vulgar, profane, or scatological. It is not a great film by any measure, but the presence of Duvall and Caine make it well worth watching and you'll come away from it feeling good.


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