A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"Secondhand Lions" is about the uncles every boy should have, and the summer every boy should spend. No uncles or summers like this ever existed, but isn't it nice to think that Uncle Garth and Uncle Hub are waiting there on their Texas ranch, shooting at fish and salesmen, and waiting for their 12-year-old nephew to be dumped on them.
They are two completely inexplicable and unlikely characters, and we doubt we can believe anything we learn about them, but in the hands of those sainted actors Robert Duvall and Michael Caine, they glow with a kind of inner conviction even while their stories challenge even the kid's credulity. Maybe Hub really was a foreign legionnaire and led thousands of men into battle and won and lost a dozen fortunes, and maybe he really was in love with a desert princess named Jasmine, and then again maybe he's just been sitting there on the porch with Garth making up tall tales for gullible nephews.
The nephew's name is Walter, and he is played by Haley Joel Osment, the child actor from "The Sixth Sense" and "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence," now on the edge of adolescence but still with that clear-eyed directness that cuts right to the heart of a scene. Some actors have trouble standing up to that kind of unadorned presence, but Caine and Duvall are not ordinary, and they look the kid straight in the eye and tell him exactly what he needs to know.
Walter is dumped with the uncles after his mother Mae (Kyra Sedgwick) decides to attend court reporting school and ends up engaged to a guy in Vegas. Things like that are always happening to her. Walter's first impression of Garth and Hub is a fearful one; they seem carved from a block of American Gothic, and sit in their high-backed chairs on the porch like men who are prepared to wait for death no matter how long it takes. The summer will however not be boring, Walter understands, when the uncles start firing shotguns at unwanted visitors.