A movie with an identity crisis
When Kyra Sedgwick came on in the first scene of “Secondhand Lions,” I assumed her flaky, annoying character, Mae, was just being used as a lead-in to the actual story. As it turns out, those two characteristics turned out to be the defining themes of the movie: flaky and annoying.
This movie aspires to little more than a cross between The Princess Bride and Grumpy Old Men. And though both of those movies stand well together in my book as decent movies, a poor blend of the two just doesn’t cut it.
The movie is choppy and unorganized and the manic-depressive swings it takes simply did not settle on any one spot. Apparently, director Tim McCanlies couldn’t decide if he wanted this movie to be a comedy, a coming-of-age story, a love story, or an action-adventure story, so he haphazardly combines elements of all of them in a very incohesive package.
One moment a midget is running around with comic sound effects, and only minutes later, lead character Walter is in tears trying to convince his uncle Hub that he’s not allowed to die.
I felt like the movie was trying to make me laugh, then trying to make me cry and succeeding at neither.
On top of that was the overly kitschy performance by Sedgwick, an out-of-touch and selfish mother who abandons Walter with his two great uncles and runs off to Las Vegas, a plot element only overdone by the overacting of Haley Joel Osment. Osment went over the top on everything from gagging on chewing tobacco to milking Uncle Hub of his personal life story to lecturing his uncles, played by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, on how to raise him properly.
Whether this excessive style of acting was of Osment’s own doing or whether he was pushed that way by McCanlies was difficult to tell. It was unfortunate to see, however, based on Osment’s track record in “A.I.,” “Pay it Forward” and “Sixth Sense.”
I will give this movie some credit as being a good family movie. An 11-year-old would likely overlook all these things I’m complaining about and enjoy the basic storyline of a kid trying to figure these two old men out while listening to adventure stories about the French Foreign Legion. That and the ending credits illustrated by Berkeley Breathed of Bloom County fame are somewhat entertaining.
But if you don’t have any pre-teens in the family, don’t waste your time.
Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Lolita’ links life to Iran
As expected, Amanda’s home smelled of all good things to eat. An intoxicating aroma of pumpkin bread welcomed us, and I immediately felt warm both inside and out.
“Amanda, how do you manage to bake like this?” Jo asked. “I’m lucky if I remember to pick up a pizza.”
“My kids are gone,” Amanda answered laughing. “Come in and sit by the fire. It’s snowing already.”
We gathered around the glow and eagerly ate the warm bread while waiting for Amanda to begin her preview of our next book. I liked the idea of someone reviewing a book before we read it. No secrets were ever disclosed, but it did give us a good idea of what to expect. I know I didn’t have time to sit and read all the reviews at the bookstore, and I liked hearing what my friends had to say.
“I was so enthralled with last month’s selection that I decided to stay with a Middle Eastern theme,” Amanda explained. “”Reading Lolita in Tehran’ is exactly as it sounds. Azar Nafisi teaches an underground book club for Iranian women. The women let loose their chadors and discuss Nabokov’s “Lolita,’ Henry James, Fitzgerald and Jane Austin while paralleling the stories and characters with their own lives under militant law.
“The book can be heavy and at times you feel like you are reading a literary dissertation. However, the author weaves together stories of life in Tehran since the fall of the Shah. It adds an interesting element.
“Nafisi has experienced a life few women can articulate, let alone write about. She comes from a family of intellectuals and clearly has devoted her life to literary pursuit. She captures not only the essence of a classical book club, but also the culture in which the women must live and endure. The book club is a cathartic release from reality for the women.”
Amanda picked up her book to read an excerpt.
“In Iran, a strange distance informed our relation to these daily experiences of brutality and humiliation. There, we spoke as if the events did not belong to us; like schizophrenic patients, we tried to keep ourselves away from that other self, at once intimate and alien.”
“She writes both poetically and at times, very scholarly,” Amanda said. “The book is not a simple, easy breeze. It challenges you, provokes you into learning, and ultimately questions freedoms we often take for granted.” Amanda finished her insights.
With winter settling in we were ready for a more challenging read. There would be many dark nights ahead to settle in.
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