Secondhand Lions film poster
|Directed by||Tim McCanlies|
|Produced by||David Kirschner
|Written by||Tim McCanlies|
|Starring||Haley Joel Osment
|Music by||Patrick Doyle|
|Cinematography||Jack N. Green|
|Editing by||David Moritz|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Running time||111 minutes|
This article is about the film. For the stage musical, see Secondhand Lions: A New Musical.
Secondhand Lions, a 2003 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Tim McCanlies, tells the story of an introverted young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who is sent to live with his eccentric great-uncles (Robert Duvall and Michael Caine) on a farm in Texas.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (July 2011)|
In 1962 in the Texas countryside, 14-year old Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment) is left by his irresponsible, deceitful mother, Mae (Kyra Sedgwick), to live for the summer with his reclusive, bachelor great-uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine) McCann, brothers said to have a secret fortune  . Walter is given a room in the attic where he finds a photograph of a beautiful woman, who he later learns is Jasmine (Emmanuelle Vaugier), Hub's one true love. Soon after, relatives Ralph and Helen arrive with their children, hoping for a chance at the fortune. Thinking Walter is also after it, they threaten foster care, making him run away. Walter makes his way to a gas station, and uses a phone booth to call the court reporting school which his mother told him she was attending only to learn she isn't there. The two uncles see him; Hub is glad to see him on his way, but Garth convinces Hub to bring him back home.
Walter begins settling in, dealing with his uncles' odd habits, such as Hub's sleepwalking at night in which he relives old fights, as well as their daily routine of shooting at traveling salesmen for fun. Curious, Walter suggests they at least hear a pitch; they end up buying a clay pigeon launcher. Hub orders a lion from a circus animal dealer, intending to mount its head after killing it; however, they end up with an aging, tame lioness. Walter names her Jasmine, angering Hub. Later, Hub passes out loading 50 pound bags of Purina Lion Chow, landing him in the hospital. He soon recovers and is hungry; the three then lunch at a road side store. Four Greasers enter, annoying Hub who easily beats them in a fight. In their absence, Ralph and Helen's sons accidentally release Jasmine from her crate just as Hub, Garth and Walter return. Walter searches for Jasmine, and finds her in the cornfield, which becomes her new "jungle" home. Hub and Garth decide to let Walter keep Jasmine as a pet, knowing the lioness will keep Ralph and Helen away. When Walter notices Hub lecturing the four toughs, Garth explains it's Hub's special speech for "what every boy needs to know about being a man".
Garth also explains their past through the story. On the eve of World War I, Hub and Garth arrived in France just as Germany invaded the country. They soon found themselves shanghaied and conscripted into the Legion, which led them to fight in many battles. After the war, Garth became a guide in Africa, while Hub traveled the world. During his travels, Hub met and fell in love with Jasmine, a princess promised to a powerful Sheik. When Hub rescued her, the Sheik put a price of 10,000 gold pieces on Hub's head, keeping them in constant peril from assassins and bounty hunters. Finally, Hub arranged for Garth, disguised as a bounty hunter, to get him close to the Sheik, while Garth collected the reward. Hub then fought and won a duel against the Sheik but spared his life. He warned the Sheik if this vendetta didn't end, his life would; this ends the Sheik's manhunt. When Walter asks to hear more, Garth says he must find out the rest from Hub.
Later, Walter awakens Hub from a bout of sleepwalking to ask about Jasmine's fate. Hub reveals Jasmine and their unborn child died in childbirth. Knowing no other life, Hub returned to the Legion to escape his grief, until he retired with Garth to their Texas farm. Walter then realizes Garth's stories might be true, but asks Hub to confirm it, since his mother always tells lies. Hub responds with a piece of his "What Every Boy Needs to Know..." speech, that the actual truth is not as important as the belief in ideals like good winning over evil, honor, and true love. Seeing how much Hub misses his Jasmine, Walter asks Hub to promise to be around to give him the rest of the speech when he's old enough; Hub grudgingly agrees. As a result, Walter and his uncles form an even closer bond. Late one evening, Walter awakens to see Garth walking out to the barn and secretly follows him, trailing him to a room underneath the barn, which is filled with money.
On another night, Walter's mother and her current suitor, a supposed "private investigator" named Stan, arrive. While the uncles sleep, Stan and Mae demand that Walter reveal the location of the fortune, claiming Hub and Garth were actually bank robbers, that Jasmine was their accomplice, and the money is theirs for the taking. To Mae's dismay, Walter chooses to believe in his uncles instead of her. Angered, Stan drags Walter to the barn, revealing he's in deep debt. Walter then tells Stan to defend himself before kicking him between the legs. Walter runs to the house, past the cornfield, where Stan knocks him down and begins hitting him. Sensing Walter in danger, the lioness emerges from the cornfield to attack Stan, leaving him badly mauled. Awakened by the ruckus, Hub and Garth find the old lioness died of heart failure. Hub and Garth explain Jasmine was "protecting her cub," and Walter proudly observes she was "a real lion... at the end".
The next day, Walter leaves with his mother, who is pressured by the uncles to get rid of Stan. She replies she intends to drop him off in Vegas. However, once on the road, Mae explains Stan will be staying with them to recuperate. Sick of Mae's lies, Walter asks her to finally "do something that's best for me for once" and abandons her. Soon, Hub and Garth are greatly pleased to see Walter's return. However, the boy insists there have to be changes: his uncles will have to be involved in things like Little League and PTA meetings, and to stop doing dangerous stunts, as he wants them to die of old age.
17 years later, an adult Walter (Josh Lucas), has become the cartoonist of the comic strip "Walter and Jasmine," based on his experiences with his uncles, now both 90 years of age. He is alerted by the sheriff of his uncles' deaths from a failed flying stunt with their biplane. Arriving at their farm, Walter is given his uncles' will declaring "The kid gets it all. Just plant us in the damn garden, next to the stupid lion." A helicopter bearing the logo "Sahara Petroleum" then touches down near the homestead, and a man (Eric Balfour) steps out with his young son. Approaching Walter, he explains while visiting nearby for a business trip, he heard about Hub and Garth's deaths on the news and recognized the names as the two Americans in tales told to him as a young boy by his grandfather, "a very wealthy sheik. He called them 'my most honored adversaries. The only men who ever outsmarted me.'" When the man's young son asks Walter if his uncles were indeed real, that they really lived, Walter confirms, "Yeah. They really lived."
- Haley Joel Osment as Walter Caldwell
- Robert Duvall as Hub McCann
- Michael Caine as Garth McCann
- Kyra Sedgwick as Mae Caldwell
- Nicky Katt as Stan
- Josh Lucas as Adult Walter Caldwell
- Michael O'Neill as Ralph
- Deirdre O'Connell as Helen
- Christian Kane as Young Hub
- Daniel Brooks as Sheik's Great-Grandson
- Kevin Haberer as Young Garth
- Eric Balfour as Sheik's grandson
- Emmanuelle Vaugier as Jasmine
- Adam Ozturk as The Sheik
- Adrian Pasdar as Skeet Machine Salesman, aka clay pigeon launcher
- Mitchel Musso as Boy
- Marc Musso as Boy
- Jennifer Stone as Martha
- Taureg as Jasmine the Lion
- Billy Joe Shaver as delivery truck driver
The film had a different ending originally, but it was not well received by the test audience and a new ending was shot. In the original ending to the film, instead of the sheik's grandson, a tractor-trailer pulls up at the gravesite and a detachment from the French Foreign Legion rides out on horseback and act as an Honor Guard escorting two riderless horses with boots inserted backwards in the stirrups in honor of the brothers. Shortly thereafter, the sheik himself, elderly and using a wheelchair, arrives in a limousine surrounded by his harem to pay his respects. The four greasers that Hub beat up also make an appearance at the funeral, showing that Hub's speech did have an impact, as the men are now mature and respectable.
The film score was composed by Patrick Doyle and features music by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and Ola Onabule, in addition to Doyle. The film also features "A Lot of Livin' To Do" (performed by Sammy Davis Jr.), Let Me In (The Sensations song) (performed by The Sensations), "Big Balls in Cowtown" (performed by Don Walser), "Rolling Stone From Texas" (performed by Walser), "Texas Playboy Rag" (performed by Pine Valley Cosmonauts), "Red Skin Gal" (performed by Walser) and "Help Me" (performed by Sonny Boy Williamson).
Reviews for the film were mixed. Based on 129 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 59% of critics gave Secondhand Lions a positive review. Film critic James Berardinelli said "Despite flaws that are (for the most part) easily overlooked, this film has enough charm and whimsy to capture the attention and imagination of children and parents alike." Stephen Holden of The New York Times said the film "may be pure hokum, but at least it knows how to spin a yarn."
The Hollywood Reporter's Sheri Linden said "McCanlies has more of an inclination toward schmaltz, but the deft restraint of topliners Michael Caine and Robert Duvall tempers the narrative with a wry, poignant reserve." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times praised the performances of Caine, Duvall and Osment but said "Almost all the film's peripheral characters, from Walter's mother and her boyfriend to a family of grasping relatives, are clichéd in an overly broad, unfunny way that is unpleasant in itself and a marked contrast to the more nuanced performances of the trio of leads." The Boston Globe critic, Wesley Morris, criticized the film's portrayal of Arab people and women, describing it as "uncomfortably retrograde" and "troubling".
The film grossed $42,070,939 in North America and $5,831,627 for the rest of the world, adding up to a total worldwide gross of $47,902,566.
- "Secondhand Lions (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- In the special feature "Secondhand Lions: One Screenplay's Wild Ride in Hollywood" on the movie DVD, the producers talk about how odd it would have been for Tommy Lee Jones, who is six years younger than Robert Duvall, to play Hub, the older brother, while Duval was proposed for Garth, the younger brother. At the time of filming, Duvall was 72 and Michael Caine was 70. On the letter from Mae, the year is 1962. If Hub and Garth were the same ages as Duvall and Caine in 1962, that would make them 24 and 22, respectively, in 1914 when World War I began.
- Epstein, Daniel Robert (2004). "Tim McCanlies Interview". UGO Networks. Archived from the original on August 19, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Secondhand Lions (Motion picture (deleted scene)). New Line Cinema. 2003. Retrieved April 5, 2009.
- "Secondhand Lions (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Berardinelli, James (September 16, 2003). "Review: Secondhand Lions". Reelviews.net. Archived from the original on August 19, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Holden, Stephen (September 19, 2003). "Secondhand Lions (2003)". The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Linden, Sheri (September 12, 2003). "Secondhand Lions Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Turan, Kenneth (September 19, 2003). "'Secondhand Lions' Movie Review". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 19, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Morris, Wesley (September 19, 2003). "Distressing images keep 'Lions' from roaring". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on August 19, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- ‘Secondhand Lions,’ ‘Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess’ at 5th Avenue Theatre