It's too bad this film had such a short theatrical run, and that it's hardly remembered even from a few years ago. Like 1988's "The Milagro Beanfield War", this little gem deserves a much wider audience, and I count it among my favorite films that no one's ever heard of. Not quite a coming of age story for Haley Joel Osmont's character, it serves up grand adventure and a pair of dysfunctional aging uncles who come to be the only real family young Walter (Osmont) will ever know. As he envisions Uncle Garth's (Michael Caine) tall tales of evil sheiks and swordplay in Africa, Walter will grow to understand that courage, honor and virtue are the most important things in life and that true love never dies.With this film, along with "Open Range" and AMC's production of "Broken Trail", Robert Duvall has become my favorite 'modern day' actor. He seems to create his characters effortlessly, becoming who they are with such ease that it's a wonder to behold. His performances almost transcend acting per se, in a way that we no longer see Duvall in a role, we see a cantankerous old uncle or a grizzly trail rider without celebrity getting in the way. I'm not sure if I can make that statement about any other famous personality in film today.It's only marginally important that a real lion was introduced into the story to support the title, the real 'secondhand lions' are Uncle Garth (Michael Caine) and Hub (Duvall), noble beasts in their heyday who have different ways of winding down their lives and passing on their legacies to a hand me down nephew. Even though they've outlived their time, they're not about to spend the rest of their lives rocking on the porch, unless it's armed with a shotgun and an idea of what the next great adventure might be.
Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is left by his gold digging mother Mae (Kyra Sedgwick) with his eccentric great-uncles Garth (Michael Caine) and Hub (Robert Duvall) in rural Texas. She thinks they've hidden a fortune somewhere and hopes they would leave it all to her. Their other relatives come sniffing around and they're not happy at Walter being there. Meanwhile they are hounded by salesmen who are always trying to take advantage of them. Then they buy a secondhand lion to shoot.HJO is growing older and this is the awkward stage. He doesn't have quite the same cuteness and is much too stiff. I can see this role more fitting him as his younger self. His lack of expressions worked as a child but is a hindrance as he gets older. The story is a gentle memory of a fanciful tale. Writer/director Tim McCanlies isn't bringing anything particularly interesting. It's all left up to the veterans Duvall and Caine. They are able to salvage a little bit but not all of it. 041b061a72