Secondhand Lions

**

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

What do actors become when they grow old? Grumpy. What do child stars become when they stop being children? Awkward.

Secondary Lions is so phony, it weakens the foundations of a plot that relies too heavily on the feelgood factor. Can Robert Duvall and Michael Caine really be brothers? Even in your dreams, it doesn't make a dang bit o' sense.

Caine is called Garth and speaks with a Texas accent that matches Dick Van Dyke's Cockney in Mary Poppins. He sits on the porch of their sun-bleached wooden house with a shotgun in his lap, waiting to shoot salesmen who drive up in two-tone convertibles.

Duvall is called Hub and he's all right with that. He can handle a 12-bore like it's second nature and looks comfortable in the country, which Caine does not. All he has to do is be loveable and bad tempered and ill at ease around emotion. He's the tough guy with a honeycomb heart.

Along comes Haley Joel Osment, the kid from AI and The Sixth Sense, who looks like Ed Norton when he was 14. He is called Walter and is dumped on the old crusties by their much younger sister (Kyra Sedgwick), because she says she's going to college in Kansas, but, in fact, sneaks off to Vegas for a bit of fun.

Hub and Garth say they don't know how to look after themselves, let alone a kid. Walter is scared of the dogs and cannot imagine life without TV or a telephone. He is sent to sleep in a spooky attic and told to fend for his needs.

Basically, this is a sentimental rites-of-passage tale of a shy city boy who learns to love animals and old uncles. Garth tells him stories of Hub's adventures with the French Foreign Legion and his passionate love affair with a dark-haired princess (Emmanuelle Vaugier), called Jasmine. There is also the matter of bank notes stached in a priest hole in the barn and the kitchen garden that turned into a field of corn and the lion that lived in a crate in the yard.

None of it is remotely believable and although Duvall comes through with flying colours, Caine is miscast and Osment appears to have lost some of his instinctive uniqueness.

Writer/director Tim McCanlies is uncertain whether he's making a generation gap comedy, or a mushy nostalgic memoir.

Reviewed on: 23 Oct 2003
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Secondhand Lions packshot
A shy teenage city boy is dumped with grumpy old uncles on a sundried Texas homestead.
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Director: Tim McCanlies

Writer: Tim McCanlies

Starring: Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment, Kyra Sedgwick, Ricky Katt, Josh Lucas, Michael O'Neill, Dierdre O'Connell, Christian Kane, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Kevin Haberer

Year: 2003

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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