In the family-friendly Secondhand Lions, writer/director Tim McCanlies gives us a quirky look at an unconventional family. Throw together two wacky old uncles, a squeaky-voiced preteen, a flighty mom, several barnyard and exotic animals, and a 1960s backdrop, and you've got the unlikely ingredients for the wild and fun romp that is Lions. Does it work? For the most part.
Academy Award winners Michael Caine and Robert Duvall play Uncles Garth and Hub, respectively. These aren't your ordinary uncles. They've reappeared after 40 years of absence. They shoot at traveling salesmen from their front porch for sport. And the locals think they're both retired bank robbers with millions of dollars stashed away on their Texas farm.
Their nephew, Walter (Haley Joel Osment in a role that should have gone to a younger actor), gets dumped at the uncles' house as his mom, Mae (Kyra Sedgwick), heads off for school—or so she tells Walter. Now the fun begins as Walter, a shy kid, learns how to relate to his outlandish uncles—and how he fits in with this crazy farm family, all while being followed by one pig and five dogs, his constant companions.
McCanlies successfully conveys the quirkiness of his characters and script, but he over-reaches at times. Perhaps McCanlies fears that his audience will miss important metaphors, but I want to scream, "I get it!" when he lingers on the "used" (do you get it?) African lion (do you get it now?) the uncles bought to hunt for sport, but which Walter saves and subsequently cares for (do you get it yet?). While I grew impatient with these delays in moving the story along, perhaps they're necessary for younger viewers to get the point. Because of these delays, I found the movie incredibly slow-moving. ...1
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