Recommend, but beware. This is a wonderful sappy, humorous little story about a young introverted kid (Haley Joel Osment) left one summer on the porch of his eccentric great-uncles (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall) by his irresponsible mother. The uncles are hermit types who don’t like being around people and there is speculation that they have a secret fortune stolen from AL Capone hidden somewhere. The kid reignites their lives and they bring fascinating fantasy to his. Duvall steals the show again, as always. Worth it just to watch him. So the uncle played by Caine ends up entertaining the kid with stories about he and Duvall’s Indian Jones like adventures during the war. The tales are told and visually shown precisely like an Indiana Jones story, very romantic, with the love of a princess and fighting Arabs and all that. And Duvall is supposed to have been the adventurer. The moral of the story comes from Duvall when he tells the kid in relation to his life stories and the Romantic exaggeration, “It don’t matter if it’s true or not. Sometimes, you just gotta believe in some things like courage and honor cause that’s what it’s all about.” Or something like that. Anyway, that’s the postmodern twist in the movie that is subversive. Truth is not important, just values. This brings up the problematic question of “which values then?” If none are really true, then lies are equal to truth. While I would certainly agree that a fictional story can tell just as much truth as a true one, that should not justify lying. There is something more special about a story having really taken place that reinforces the value in a way that fiction cannot do. It’s why “true story” movies are more deeply moving to us – because it really happened, and therefore is invested with a bit more meaning than simply making something up to make a point. A perfect example of this is the Christian faith. The Bible says that if Jesus DID NOT really rise from the dead, then we are all still dead in our sins and without any hope, the Christians being the most to be pitied because they followed a lie. Lookee here:
1 Corinthians 15: 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
So some truth really is based in factual historical occurrences, which, if they did not really happen, would falsify the narrative’s values as well. So it DOES matter to tell the truth. The ends DO NOT justify the means. Lies are not justified just because the values it teaches are “good.” As it so happens, the movie hints at the end that the stories are in fact, true, as we see the son of the Arab enemy turned ally arrive on a helicopter to meet the old geezers. But this is really a throw away because the point was already made that the values were most important, not the facts, and the fact that the stories supposedly really happened is merely icing on the cake. Another subversive element of the film is the context. Is it merely a coincidence that in this movie TWO MEN are portrayed as more capable of raising a child well than a “traditional mother” with a husband? It strikes me a bit like “Heather Has Two Mommies” or “Daddy’s Roommate” as a subversion of traditional family structure, I hope that was unintended, but I tend to doubt it.