In life, it is the strong and the resolute that we admire. In movies, it is the same. Robert Duvall supplies another strong, mannered, macho performance as Uncle Hub in New Line Entertainment's 2003 "Secondhand Lions"' brand new UMD. In fact, he steals the picture.
"Secondhand Lions" asks the question: What does a boy need to know to become a man? Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment) transforms from a boy into a hearty young man over the course of a summer spent with his curmudgeonly uncles Hub(Robert Duvall), and Garth (Michael Caine) McCann. Walter's mother Mae dumps him off with his two old uncles at the beginning of the summer. Now Mae can run off to Las Vegas with her new boyfriend, Stan.
Poor Walter is a quiet kid, some say a "weenie". "Where's the TV?" asks Walter. "Don't have one" answers Hub. "Where's the telephone?" asks Walter. "Don't have one" answers Garth. The two uncles don't like relatives, don't like Walter, and really don't like anything, except shooting things with twelve-gauge shotguns.
Garth and Hub like to sit on the front porch, drink iced tea, and wait for traveling salesmen to show up. They use the peddlers for target practice. And they don't seem to worry much. In fact, the two uncles are rumored to have a million dollars stashed away somewhere. Where'd they get that? Walter's mother told him that the two men spent forty years as fugitives from justice; they're bank robbers.
Eventually, Walter learns how they made their money and why they disappeared from Texas for forty years. The pair left Texas to see Europe just when the Kaiser was invading. They kept one step ahead of him. The two uncles wound up in the French Foreign Legion, and indulged in a series of adventures which included battling an evil sheik and romancing a beautiful princess. Walter listens closely as the stories unfold in flashbacks. He also learns one of the main themes of the movie, when Hub says "Some things are important for a man to believe in, whether they are true or not; the important thing is believing" and eventually the two uncles accept Walter as he grows into young adulthood.
Caine and Duvall are good as the crotchety but loveable uncles, but Duvall steals the show. Caine appears somewhat tentative, perhaps still struggling to convert his Cockney accent into Texas slang. On a sidenote, even his diction coach has a small part in the film as one of the salesmen.
"Secondhand Lions" is shot on location at a large farm-house in Austin under clear, blue Texas skies. The video is a widescreen 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The color and detail are perfect.
The Dolby Digital Stereo audio sounds great, crisp and clear, and the score by Patrick Dolye is great. The film is enhanced by exceptional foley sound effects and ADR production and as a result the actors' shoes scrape along the gravel driveway, allowing you to hear every step. In order to experience the full scope of the audio production, I would recommend the use of ear-phones.
The clever UMD menu layout starts with an old locker box, a light flashing on the lock. Press the right arrow button, and a key to the right lights up. Now press "X" button, and the chest opens up to provide the actual menu. Nicely done.
The commentary track features director Tim McCanlies chatting about shooting the film in sequence over the course of a long Texas summer. The "Secondhand Lion" DVD has had ten deleted scenes - this UMD has three. "Walter's First Fantasy", "True Story of the Salesmen", and "Helen and the Santa Suit".
You also get a Gag Reel, which isn't very exciting, though, as well as the movie's trailer.
"Secondhand Lions" is a delightful romp, a character essay, and a treasure chest of spunky humor. I sat up watching "Secondhand Lions", and wound up watching the whole movie, and all of the special features. I took off the ear-phones and as I turned off the movie it was almost midnight. No idea where the time has gone.