Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is dumped on the unwelcoming front porch of his two great-uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine) by his flighty mother (Kyra Sedgewick) so she can go to school and learn how to be a court reporter. She tells him that they disappeared 40 years earlier and just mysteriously returned. The rumor is that they have money hidden away somewhere, and she tells Walter to see if he can find it.
Hub and Garth are not used to taking care of anyone. They tell Walter that if he needs anything he should find it himself or, better yet, do without it. Walter is not used to being taken care of. His mother has had a series of worthless or abusive boyfriends. When he calls the school to try to talk to her, he runs through a whole list of aliases before finding out that she has lied to him again and never even enrolled.
Duvall and Caine have such easy charm that they make this movie work, though it sags when anyone else is on screen, including the flashbacks of their adventures in Africa and Osment’s struggles to find his character and manage his adolescent voice.
Parents should know that the movie has “action violence,” cartoon-style and not graphic. There are some tense family issues and sad deaths.
Families who see this movie should talk about their own best advice for children about growing up and about the importance of having role models. They should also talk about Hub’s view that sometimes it is important to believe in things whether they are true or not.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Holes and Shirley Temple’s Captain January.