Reeling in Emotion: Secondhand Lions Movie Review

Produced a decade ago, Secondhand Lions was a movie missed by most.  Legend has it that Walter’s (Haley Joel Osment) crazy uncles (Michael Caine, Robert Duvall) stole millions.  Walter’s mother hatches a plan to find out where the stolen money is hidden and the young boy is dumped at the uncles’ house for the summer.  This heart-warming comedy takes us back in time as the uncles retell the stories of their lives to the young boy.  Walter changes their lives as much as they change his; even their legacy touches him in the most unexpected way.

Haley Joel Osment started his acting career at the age of four and was most recognized for his role in The Sixth Sense, as he was nominated for an Oscar at the mere age of 11.  His acting skills continued to improve as he starred in Secondhand Lions.  Michael Caine was an actor I had not seen until Secondhand Lions.  He has performed in more than 100 television shows and many European films, but his performance in Secondhand Lions is noteworthy.  Actor Robert Duvall starred as character “Boo Radley” in To Kill a Mockingbird and later acquired roles in The Godfather films.  As these two men played the parts of the eccentric uncles, I was reeled into the stories of their pasts, like it was my own grandfather’s story.

Secondhand Lions deserves a high rating with the ability to make one laugh, cry, and contemplate life all within two hours time.  The storyline of Secondhand Lions makes it acceptable for the whole family to watch.  People of all ages will surely enjoy it.  Taken on a whirlwind of emotions, I was laughing and crying, as this film soon became my most favorite movie.  This movie makes one wish to seek adventure and be able to look back on his or her life and see it well lived. 

This movie had mixed reviews from critics.  Some (from Rotten Tomatoes) to make note of are:

“Secondhand Lions is a movie you want to believe in — original ideas, acclaimed actors — but McCanlies uses too many broad strokes when subtlety and finesse would have had greater impact.” -Erik Lundegaard, Sept. 19, 2003, Seattle Times

“Lions will appeal to a more mature audience because of the solid acting duo of Caine and Duvall. It will also appeal to children because of its almost mythological feel.” -Mary Lasse, Oct. 11, 2006, Christianity Today

“It’s a very enjoyable, cute, inoffensive film that’s actually family friendly without being pablum. So that’s a rarity.” -Widgett Walls, March 16, 2004, Widget Walls

“…may wander near and far, mixing down-home hokum with gushy sentiment, yet it generally succeeds in winning us over.” -John J. Puccio, Nov. 29, 2009, Movie Metropolis

While I may be biased because this is my personal favorite movie, I feel like these good reviews do a good job explaining why people like the movie or why they should see it.  It’s “a movie you want to believe in” and will “appeal to children because of its almost mythological feel” are spot on descriptions.  The uncles’ crazy story is exciting.  Just like the nephew in the movie, viewers are left anxiously awaiting the next part of the story.

“A family film that won’t really please anyone in the family.” -Matt Pais, Aug. 14, 2004, The Cinema Source

“Secondhand Lions manages to squander the services of seasoned vets Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, and promising newcomer Haley Joel Osment, with a tale that is dramatically false and disturbingly vicious.” -Peter Howell, Sept. 19, 2003, Toronto Star

 While there are some sword fighting scenes and some domestic abuse, I don’t feel like this movie is any more vicious than any of the action packed movies.  Howell does have a point that the storyline is “dramatically false” but like mentioned above that’s why some viewers like it.