Secondhand Lionsrecommends "believing in something"

When 12-year-old Walter's mother (Kyra Sedgwick) abandons him for the summer on the remote Texas farm of his two crazy uncles, he's scared and hurt. He's also skeptical about what he's been told: That Uncle Hub (Robert Duvall) and Uncle Garth (Michael Caine) have a fortune hidden on their property. As the days pass, Walter (Haley Joel Osment) warms up to the uncles, his imagination fueled by Garth's hard-to-believe tales about the adventures he and his brother enjoyed in foreign countries, battling nasty villains and defending the honor of a beautiful princess. He also learns why Uncle Hub is prone to fits of melancholy and sleepwalking. Could these guys be telling the truth? Could these geezers, who like to sit on their front porch and fire rifles at approaching salesmen, really be living legends?

Writer/director Tim McCanlies's film Secondhand Lions has a lot in common with the animated feature that he wrote a few years back: The Iron Giant. Both films are about a boy without a father figure. In both tales, a dislocated figure, larger-than-life and bit melancholy, inspires the boy, and is likewise inspired by his wide-eyed wonder and faith. The two films also include a meddling investigator who represents another possible father figure, a man who is rash and dangerous. And in the end, both films celebrate the value of imagination, faith in far-fetched ideas, and the idea that age has nothing to do with importance.

The veteran actors are in fine form as the grouchy old men, and Osment, although he may have been miscast as "an ordinary kid," shines in one emotional scene after another. The script is whimsical and full of ideas, but it spends too much time telling instead of ...

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