Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Secondhand Lions
Written and Dir. by Tim McCanlies

This was a film that I had decided not to see, but it came down to a decision today between it and Brother Bear, and it seems that Lion eats Bear.

This is, with the exception of the final four minutes or so of the film, a great movie. I read on IMDB that the ending was re-shot because test audiences didn't like it. I imagine that it was left a bit more ambiguous than it stands now. That would have been for the better, I think.

You've probably seen the trailers, but don't be fooled into thinking that this is a grumpy-old-men film with cute little Haley-Joel thrown in to livin things up, it isn't.

To me this film has more in common with The Princess Bride with high action flashback sequences detailing the adventures of young Garth (Michael Caine) and Hub (Robert Duvall). These are told to Walter (Haley Joel Osment), the two's nephew who his floozy mother leaves with the brothers (?) for the summer to find out where they've hidden a vast fortune that they may have gotten as bank robbers, soldiers or Mafia hitmen (and also so she could go play the loose woman in Vegas).

This is a well written and directed film, and Duvall is the standout to me, with a striking performance in the role of the searching-for-his-place former soldier/man's man. Imagine if Indiana Jones got old and settled down and was passed by by the world (I know that that happened in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, that's not the point). What does he do with himself when he can't go out adventuring anymore?

It's also the story of Walter who does the standard boy growing into a man schtick with his crazy uncles. There's also a subplot about (other) scheming relatives and a used circus lion to add some more flavor to the mix.

I'd suggest you catch the film in the theatre if you can, or rent it on DVD shortly, if you can handle just a bit of good old hokey Hollywood filmmaking.

"I'm Hub McCann. I've fought in two World Wars and countless smaller ones on three continents. I've led thousands of men into battle with horses and swords, artillery and tanks. I've seen the headwaters of the Nile and tribes of natives no white men had ever seen before. I've won and lost a dozen fortunes, killed many men, and loved only one woman with a passion a flea like you could never begin to understand. That's who I am."

Harry at AICN hit it right on the head in his review.

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