Secondhand Lions

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This article is about the film. For the stage musical, see Secondhand Lions: A New Musical.
Secondhand Lions
Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Tim McCanlies
Produced by David Kirschner
Scott Ross
Corey Sienega
Written by Tim McCanlies
Starring Haley Joel Osment
Robert Duvall
Michael Caine
Kyra Sedgwick
Music by Patrick Doyle
Cinematography Jack N. Green
Edited by David Moritz
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • September 19, 2003 (2003-09-19)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[1]
Box office $74.8 million[1]

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.

The film received mixed-to-positive reviews from critics and the general public, and grossed $74 million on a $30 million budget.

The film has now generated a cult following.


In 1962, in the Texas countryside, 14-year-old Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment) is left by his irresponsible, dishonest 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.[2] 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 to take him to the Orphanage, 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 find 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 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 thugs, 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 lies to him. 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 boyfriend, 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. Walter then kicks him between the legs and runs to the house, past the cornfield. Stan pins Walter down and begins beating him. Sensing Walter in danger, the lioness emerges from the cornfield and mauls Stan. 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.

Seventeen years later, an adult Walter (Josh Lucas), has become the cartoonist of a comic strip Walter and Jasmine, based on his experiences with his uncles, now both in their 90's. 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, with 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." He also said "Beautiful"



Box Office[edit]

The film grossed $17,235,890 in its domestic opening weekend, debuting in second place, and finished with $51,768,334 domestically and $25,345,567 outside of America for a total gross of $76.2 million against a budget of $30 million.

Critical Reception[edit]

The movie received generally positive reviews from critics, praising the acting of the leads, the soundtrack, and story, although some critics thought it was too slow to be interesting.

Randy Horrison of gave it 3/4, stating, "It's a fantastic male bonding movie, that most guys can relate to, it may not be as good as Big Fish, but it's very close." The movie holds a rating of 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a review of 7.6/10 on IMDB.


Haley Joel Osment won a Young Artist Award for his performance as Walter Caldwell in the film. Michael Caine was nominated for a British Academy award for his role as Best Supporting Actor. The movie was nominated for a Tony award for Best Musical score, at the 2004 Tony Awards. Robert Duvall received a Saturn award for Best Supporting Actor in a family comedy, and Tim McCanlies won a MTV award for Best Director in comedy.

List of awards

Young Artist Awards Best Actor in a Family Film: won

British Academy Best Supporting Actor: nominated

British Academy Best Musical Score: nominated

Tony Best Musical Score: nominated

MTV Favourite Director: won

MTV Best Comedy Family Film: won

MTV Best Young Actor: won

Kid's Choice Best Action Performance: nominated

Kid's Choice Funniest Film: won

People's Choice Heartwarming Performance: won

Closing Credits[edit]

Berkeley Breathed produced the cartoon art for the closing credits of the film, which featured a strip called Walter and Jasmine. The panels he drew for the movie appear in Opus: 25 Years of His Sunday Best', in which Breathed terms them "the comic strip that never was".


  1. ^ a b "Secondhand Lions (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 19, 2009. 
  2. ^ 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.

External links[edit]