31 January 2009

DVD: "Secondhand Lions"

Secondhand Lions
Written and Directed by Tim McCanlies
Starring: Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment
DVD Release: 3 February 2004

MPAA Rating: PG (For Thematic Material, Language and Action Violence)
List Price: $12.97
Cinescope Personality Type(s): Youthful Sage, Loyal Warrior

The Film
Walter (Osment) is dropped off by his transient mother Mae (Kyra Sedgwick) with his two uncles for the summer.  All anyone knows about the two uncles are that they disappeared for forty years and are rumored to have resurfaced with a fortune.  Hub (Duvall) and Garth (Caine) reluctantly take in the awkward boy, and over the course of a fascinating summer, the three find inspiration in one another.  The film could easily have become entirely too sweet for its own good, but stays grounded enough to simply be charming.  There are a handful of fantasy sequences that call to mind The Princess Bride, and since all three actors turn in top notch performances, the film becomes endearing rather than preachy, and fun rather than contrived.

New Line believed enough in the film to produce it (as documented in the "One Screenplay's Wild Ride in Hollywood" feature), but were apparently disappointed by its performance at the box office because they have only released one edition on a double-sided disc.  These are always problematic.  Still, families with kids who do not appreciate the widescreen format will find the option of viewing the film in a pan & scan, 4:3 aspect ratio.  Director McCanlies also wrote the script, and provides an insightful commentary track.  He's clearly in love with Texas, his own script and Haley Joel Osment, and those passions are well documented throughout his commentary and the DVD features.

The Recommendation
This is another film that was not drawn to see theatrically because of its marketing.  The trailer and TV spots are included as bonus features, and they come off as generic and uninteresting.  Had Secondhand Lions been better marketed, I suspect it would have performed better at the box office.  Regardless, it is yet another film that has benefitted from endless TV broadcast.  I was greatly entertained by it when I caught it on TBS last summer, and very happy to find it in the $5 bin at Walmart shortly thereafter.  It would have been worth paying the full list price ($12.97).  It's a very intimate, yet enjoyable film that will resonate with most anyone who grew up with tall tales for entertainment and still wishes for something in which to believe.  You can catch it on either TBS or TNT fairly regularly, but if you can turn it up in your local $5 bin, do it.

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