Garth (Michael Caine) and Hub (Robert Duvall) aren't just crotchety-they're downright antisocial. Perched on the front porch of their Texas home (a rundown two-and-a-half storey that would have been attractive to the Addams Family) each with a shotgun on his lap, they enthusiastically await the high point of their day: The eager parade of door-to-door salesmen who were common visitors in the 1950s period this movie inhabits.
Word has it these two guys are sitting on a pile of money, so no vendor of merchandise can resist the ultimate challenge of trying to sell to the ornery brothers even if it means dodging their gunshots.
Family members receive a similar greeting from the pair who mysteriously resurfaced after decades of estrangement. When a little-known niece (Kyra Sedgwick) drops by with the expectation of ditching her son Walter (Haley Joel Osment) for the summer, the men's reaction is clear: They don't need to be taking care of some sissy-boy. But mom is determined to step over the unwelcome mat. Like many of the other relatives, she has hopes her boy can find the hidden loot.
Walter has no choice but to make the best of the hostile relationship, however his heart is far more set on finding a family foundation than the family fortune. His meek yet no-nonsense candor matches wits with the two stern old men, as he demands a relationship with his great-uncles.
If nothing else, the kid gets credit for courage. Uncles Hub and Garth are tough old codgers, and we see their tenacity when a few teen punks try to push them around in the general store. The hardened war veterans don't hesitate to cause a ruckus and Hub's military training easily subdues the gang, who he later has over for dinner. There he takes the opportunity to share his lecture on "What Every Boy Needs to Know About Being a Man." Moments like this, along with frequent mild profanity, contribute to Lions' PG rating-yet the content is justified given the character and scope of the movie.
Funny and touching, Secondhand Lions speaks volumes about the importance of family relationships. It also provides a rare opportunity for younger audiences to enjoy the incredible talents of Caine and Duvall, two Hollywood veterans who usually appear in R-rated fare. Just as astonishing is Osment's wide-eyed innocence and strong screen presence. This young actor meets (and sometimes even exceeds) the abilities of his seasoned co-stars.
For mature children and teens, this coming-of-age story (for both young and old alike) will likely provide the perfect mix of softness and bite-much like a Secondhand Lion.