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Secondhand Lions (2003)

Mild, easy-going and comfortably-directed family stuff

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 111 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

An unusual blend of calm and eccentricity is the hallmark of this mellow tale of a young un’s summer spent on the ranch of his saggy-bellied, war-weary uncles.

As Walter, the lad in question, Haley Joel Osment keeps sightings of “dead people” to a minimum, settling instead for clapping eyes on Michael Caine and Robert Duvall as cranky double-act Garth and Hub McCann. Dumped on their doorstep by his yo-yo-drawered mom (Kyra Sedgwick), Walter soon learns a thing or three about growing up – while at the same time inadvertently injecting the pair of them with a new lease of life. In this case, that means spending their suspiciously large wads of cash on clay pigeon machines, a DIY aeroplane kit, and a knackered old lion (yes, a REAL one!) called Jasmine.

Writer and director Tim McCanlies, who’s also been involved in writing the new star-packed ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ flick, delivers a steady, enjoyable enough movie that doesn’t appear to be aimed at any particular end of the age spectrum. Smothered in sentimentality and sweeter than thick molasses, its appeal won’t be as universal as some would have you believe. A lot of kids will find it too slow, and a lot of adults will find it too schmaltzy – and the overall message, a bit like the backdrop, is hazy. But it’s essentially a nice, relaxing way to spend a couple of hours, and shouldn’t give you too much to complain about other than, perhaps, Caine’s losing battle with a deep south accent.

It's Got: Some good performances from the three leads, but let’s face it – the roles aren’t exactly testing.

It Needs: To give the pig and five dogs running around in the background their fair share of credit in the title. Wouldn’t ‘Secondhand Lions, Five Dogs and a Pig’ be just as catchy on the poster?


Mild, easy-going and comfortably-directed family stuff that’s just fun enough to hold the attention – but it’s also lacking a little in spark and originality.