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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photos courtesy of http://www.secondhandlions.com/)

photo caption:
VETERAN ACTORS: Well-known film stars Michael Caine and Robert Duvall team up in "Secondhand Lions.".end caption.nd of caption


"Secondhand Lions": A Second-Rate Film from a First-Rate Cast

Review by Kam Williams

Excuse me for expecting more from a couple of Academy Award-winners like Michael Caine (for Hannah and Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules) and Robert Duvall (for Tender Mercies) than a mediocre flashback film which fails to include either of them in any of the movie's more memorable moments. These perennial Oscar contenders, with a dozen nominations between them, may as well have mailed in their performances in Secondhand Lions, an unbearably cartoonish melodrama masquerading as folksy, family fare.

Though it has been over 25 years since the release of The Eagle Has Landed (1976), the pair's only other outing together, even loyal fans of these legendary thespians are likely to find this adventure a disappointing dud. Here, they appear as eccentric geriatrics Garth (Caine) and Hub (Duvall), rich retirees who have retreated to a remote ranch in rural Texas to reminisce about their swashbuckling salad days as world-travelling rapscallions.

The tale takes place in the early sixties, with our pretty petered-out protagonists whiling away the hours in rocking chairs on the porch of their dilapidated Victorian mansion, scaring off any visitors with warning blasts from the pump-action shotgun sitting on their laps. The cranky codgers initially object when their long-lost niece Mae (Kyra Sedgwick), who they mistake for a hooker, arrives to dump her son Walter (Haley Joel Osment) on them for the summer, especially after they size him up to be a "sissy boy."

But for some inexplicable reason, their irascibility immediately turns to compassion and they allow their grand-nephew to move in with them. This is where Secondhand Lions gets derailed. The biggest problem with the production is the presence of the post-pubescent Osment, who at 15, is no longer able to pull off that ingratiating, adorable adolescent act. It might be over for the saucer-eyed man-boy, unless his agent adjusts to his client's impending adulthood. He's had 11 infuriating flops in a row and counting since his Oscar-nominated work in The Sixth Sense, including Artificial Intelligence and Pay It Forward.

Seldom does a film fail to target some segment of the movie-going public as its desired demographic. But writer/director Tim McCanlies appears to have had no audience in mind when he made this mess. Secondhand Lions represents the sophomore effort of McCanlies, whose only other directorial credit was Dancer, Texas, Population 81, a flop which must have been seen by about that many people as it made less than a million dollars.

Despite the generous PG rating, parents really ought not consider Secondhand Lions a children's film because it has so many scenes which feature adults contributing to the delinquency of a minor. For instance, the foul-mouthed Garth and Hub encourage Walter to chew tobacco and to shoot guns at people and animals just for fun. And though depressed about their advanced age, they insensitively take an immeasurable, Midas-like glee in hoarding their ill-gotten gains from needy friends and relatives.

Caine, who is supposed to be playing an American, never bothered to work on eliminating traces of his British accent and mannerisms. His gentlemanly cowboy is almost as irritating as the intolerance exhibited in his flashbacks to the First World War when he and his brother were forced by the evil French to serve in the Foreign Legion where they fought evil Arab slave traders. All the adventures recounted are illustrated with simplistically drawn, two-dimensional characters who one must be under the age of six or so to appreciate fully.

An unqualified cinematic disaster, which I defy you to try to sit through. Fair. Rated PG for profanity, adult themes and violence.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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