In the absence of a decent father figure, two grumpy old gits provide essential male-bonding to a kid on the cusp of adulthood. Anthony Hopkins came a cropper with something similar in Hearts of Atlantis, but here the day is saved by witty dialogue, crisp acting and a cracking adventure, in which myth and magic are mixed with plenty of fun stuff. Mom (Sedgwick) dumps 14-year-old Walt (Osment) on her two uncles for the summer, in hopes he'll find the fortune rumoured to be hidden on their remote Texas ranch. The curmudgeons, Garth and Hub (Caine and Duvall), are as unhappy to see Walt as he is to be there, but with time, a second-hand lion (bought by Hub for game-hunting purposes, but adopted by Walt), and a heap of storytelling, the frosts thaw. Heart-warming is usually a by-word for mawkish mush, but watching these old-timers badmouth greedy relatives, loose off rounds at unsolicited salesmen, and whup a bunch of loudmouth punks really is entertaining, and affecting. Best of all, perhaps, is the sensitivity with which the ageing process is handled. Garth and Hub simply aren't ready for the scrapheap, a fact poignantly mirrored in the fortunes of their nemesis, the motheaten old lion.
Cast and crew
Haley Joel Osment