It’s not often we watch a ‘comedy’ movie, we’re all about the action here at Fraggle Towers, but Phil had seen a clip somewhere of Robert Duvall in a movie he didn’t recognise. When I googled it we discovered it was from a 2003 movie called Secondhand Lions, and so we watched this as our Saturday Night movie.
The plot sees a young lad, Walter (Haley Joel Osment) left by his flakey mother Mae (Kyla Sedgewick) to stay with his two bachelor great Uncles who live in Texas, Hub and Garth McCann, (Robert Duvall & Michael Caine). Mae tells her son she’s off to do a secretary course in Washington D.C and will be back in a couple of months. In fact she’s off to Vegas with a bloke. The Uncles don’t really want the kid, but let him sleep in the attic. It is rumoured that the Uncles have a lot of money stashed away and Mae wants Walter to find out where it’s stashed while she’s away. The uncles, in spite of living reclusively on a ramshackle farm, are still targeted by salesmen trying to get their hands on some of the wealth, but Garth and Hub sit on their porch and take pot shots at any salesmen who dare get out of their car. Other gold-digging relatives turn up with their awful offspring and Walter annoys them so the Uncles warm to him. Along the way the Uncles start off a vegetable garden with what they think are different seeds but turn out all to be corn, Hub buys a bi-plane, and they get an old circus lioness which becomes Walter’s pet. The scene Phil remembers involves Hub having a bar fight with four young hoods in which he gives them a tasty lesson, but later on they become friends. Eventually Walter’s Mum turns up with a man Stan (Nicky Katt) in tow, and they both want to know where the money is, but Walter won’t tell them, and is about to be beaten up by the man when the lioness saves him.
That’s enough spoilers really, a lot goes on in this movie! Yes it’s schmaltzy, yes it’s improbable, but it was great fun and Robert Duvall as always is worth watching. He portrays an old man not ready to be in his dotage, pining for his lost love, gruff but kind, stubborn but fair, he’s such a great actor he makes the movie well worth watching. Michael Caine is a great foil for him and you can see he’s genuinely having fun in this. OK so his attempt at an American accent isn’t the best and the odd bit of east-end London slips through, but not enough to send for the accent police and his portrayal of Garth as the underdog brother in thrall to his elder sibling is really well done. Osment has grown up a bit since The Sixth Sense and A.I, and is just about to leave his ‘cute’ phase behind, a little over acting here and there, but on the whole he holds his own in the company of giants. Sedgewick hits the right spot as an irresponsible mother, dressed to the nines and lipstick on, yet her vulnerability and dreams for the future leak through the smiling façade. Some great cars turn up in this, 40’s 50’s and 60’s Chevrolets, Cadillacs, Buicks, an Oldsmobile and a Ford Model T so a lot of eye candy for petrol heads 🙂 .
We really enjoyed this. Tim McCanlies who wrote and directed the film does so with much flair and panache and allows his main characters depth and nuance in spite of the schmaltz and clichés. We especially liked the group of 5 different dogs and a pig who follow Walter around the farm, god knows how they trained them to do that. We laughed a lot throughout, and there’s a lot to be said for that these days.
Fraggle Rating: One to watch on an ‘I need cheering up’ day.