Monday, November 21, 2011

Secondhand Lions

 I see dead people. Shit.....wrong film but right actor!! Or maybe it should be ' I've seen my career disappear ' because this 2003 film was almost the last Haley Joel Osment was to appear in. He has only made one other since then in 2007 entitled....??? Hmm, who cares it was forgettable. During those last 8 years all he has mainly done is voice work for video games. Sure he ran into a bit of trouble in 2006 after hitting a brick wall in his car whilst sozzled on booze ( and for possession of naughty substances ), but I can't believe that alone has driven his career down hill. After all other actors/actresses have done worse and continued on in Tinseltown.

 But thems the breaks in Hollywood. One day you can be hot property, then the next your name can be mud. Of course after 1999's The Sixth Sense, for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, he was hot property. But when you look closer at his post-Sixth Sense career there is nothing special there. And that includes this 2003 effort Secondhand Lions. Actually it is funny to compare Osment against his illustrious co-star Michael Caine, because besides Jack Nicholson, Caine is the only other actor to have been nominated for an Oscar in every decade since the 1960's! Of course he has another illustrious co-star in Robert Duvall who has an Oscar and of writing is making a telemovie at the sprightly age of 80!

 So in 2003 Secondhand Lions was a film that had a hot new up and comer and two old war horses who had been there and done that. The contrast couldn't have been greater. But age, awards, etc aside  Secondhand Lions is a 2003 dramedy...I kid you not, a dramedy! That is what wikipedia calls it so I'll go with it as well! So dramedy it is and funnily enough it fits because it is both a drama and comedy  mingled into one. The result is a quite reasonable family orientated film, that whilst not great, is still a satisfying enough watch for all ages. Dramedy? Yes, but in all intents and purposes it is a family movie.

 So what is this dramedy about? Well in 1962 12 year old Walter ( Osment ) is dumped on his two aging uncles, Hub and Garth ( Duvall and Caine ), by his promiscuous lying mother. Apparently they have a stash of money somewhere gained by unknown means. She leaves with instructions to Walter to find it. Suffice to say the relationship between the 12 year old and his aged uncles isn't easy. Their eccentric ways and family visits from greedy relatives initially confound Walter. But over time as he is yet again let down by his mother the three warm to each other. It is then Walter hears through Garth the tale behind his uncles lives and ultimately where the money came from.

 Along the way there are all sorts of comedic capers involving a lion hunt, an airplane, one damned good salesman, and a fight with four greasers. But over it all is the closeness and need  the three grow towards each other. Overall the script is quite reasonable and pulls on the heart strings just enough for the viewer to cheer for the good guys and boo the rotten family members! My only real complaint is that the action sequences as Garth reminisces about he and his brother's past are a little lame at times. To be sure it is a family orientated film but they really did look somewhat cheap. Conversely though the 1962 scenes looked good!

 When you watch this film it is hard to believe it cost US$30 million to make! $30 million! Where did it all go? Seriously that is a hell of a lot of money and yet the film doesn't project it as such. But what is more worrying is the fact it grossed only US$48 million world wide. So it is fair to say it under whelmed audiences. But it isn't a bad film at all. When released it received mixed reviews from ' its obvious flaws that can be overlooked ' ( I agree with that sentiment ) to ' it has enough charm and whimsy to capture the attention and imagination of children and adults alike ' ( a true statement ) to ' schmaltzy' and ' troubling ' due to its depiction of Arabs, hmmm maybe, maybe not.

 To be sure it has flaws but in all reality it is aimed at a specific market and for the type of film it is it does it well. There is enough story and set pieces which are ably backed up with some good humour that it is a film that is hard not to like. I've watched it numerous times over the last few years and always enjoy it. The end is a bit silly though. But then again it isn't the original one. Apparently a test audience didn't like the original ending so the producers made a new one. It isn't that great either in my opinion but it is there and has to be lived with. But since it is a feel good film the end and the way it is really does fit in with the whole point of the film.

 IMDB has this with 7.5/10. I think that is probably too much as it isn't a great film as such. I think it more a 6/10 as a film overall. But where I see that 7.5 coming from is the sentimental feeling people get from it. I suppose then that it has fulfilled its role as a piece of feel good escapism anyone of any age can enjoy. Certainly more than watchable with enough to satisfy a wide range of viewers.

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1 comment:

  1. Obviously you don't understand the relationship between the boy and his uncles. An underated gem that deserves more recognition than it was given. Sure beats the drivel hollywood gives us with cars, transformers and remakes of everything under the sun.