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Movie Review

Secondhand Lions also known as “Dos viejos cascarrabias,” “El secreto de los McCann,” “Les vieux lions,” “Lições Para Toda Vida,” “Lições Para Toda a Vida,” “Löwen aus zweiter Hand,” “Le secret des frères McCann,” “Leharcolt oroszlánok,” “Afrikan salaisuudet,” “Afrikas hemligheter,” “Brugte løver”

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, language and action violence.

Reviewed by: Caroline Mooney
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Older Kids, Teens, Adults
Genre:
Comedy Drama
Length:
1 hr. 49 min.
Year of Release:
2003
USA Release:
September 19, 2003 (wide)
Copyright, New Line Cinema Copyright, New Line Cinema Copyright, New Line Cinema Copyright, New Line Cinema Copyright, New Line Cinema Copyright, New Line Cinema Copyright, New Line Cinema Copyright, New Line Cinema Copyright, New Line Cinema
Relevant Issues
Copyright, New Line Cinema

TRUTH—The subject of truth is crucial to this story. Is there such a thing as absolute truth in this world of uncertainty? One of the lead characters of this movie does not think so. Christians believe that God has provided reliable truth in the Bible. How do we know the Bible is true? Answer

Depression

DEPRESSION—As people grow older, they sometimes become depressed. Are there biblical examples of depression and how to appropriately deal with it? Answer

What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer


NATURE OF MANKIND—One of the old men claims that all “men are basically good”? What does God say? Read Psalm 14:1-3, Isaiah 64:6. Still, we have great value in God’s eyes (John 3:16).

Money

Walter’s mother and boyfriend were focused on gaining riches. What does the Bible say? (1 Timothy 6:17)

Hub and Garth hid their money for years and then began spending with extravagance. What does the Bible say about wise and unwise use of money? (Luke 19:11-27)

Treasures on Earth, treasures in heaven? (Matthew 6:19-21)

Suicide

SUICIDE—What does the Bible say? Answer

If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to Heaven? Answer


RAISING TEENS can be difficult. Is there any special advice available for parents of teens from the Millennial generation? Answer

Learn more about parenting in our special answers section for parents

Featuring: Michael Caine (Garth), Robert Duvall (Hub), Haley Joel Osment (Walter), Kyra Sedgwick (Mae), Nicky Katt (Stan), Josh Lucas (Adult Walter), Michael O'Neill (Ralph), Deirdre O'Connell (Helen), Eric Balfour (Sheik’s Grandson), Christian Kane (Young Hub), Kevin Haberer (Young Garth), Emmanuelle Vaugier (Jasmine), Adam Ozturk (The Sheik), Jennifer Stone (Martha), more »
Director: Tim McCanlies
Producer: David Kirschner Productions/Digital Domain, David Kirschner, Scott Ross, Corey Sienega
Distributor: New Line Cinema

Little did Walter (Haley Joel Osment) know how much his life was about to change when his flighty mother (Kyra Sedgwick), leaves him with his Uncles Hub (Michael Caine) and Garth (Robert Duvall) at their Gothic-styled Texas farm house for the summer. Rumored to have millions of dollars stashed away, Walter’s mother hopes he can discover the money’s location while she is away studying court reporting. Of course, she never makes it to school and ends up in Las Vegas chasing another boyfriend.

At first, Walter is afraid of his gruff old uncles, who appear to be waiting on death. Determined to learn the truth behind gossipy speculation, Walter begins poking around. Garth, assuming the role of storyteller, narrates some seemingly tall tales. Recollections spring to life with exciting flashbacks and Walter is mesmerized with tales of travel, war, heroism, and love.

Feeling bored and useless, the uncles, particularly Hub, struggle with acceptance of old age and retirement. They purchase expensive and exotic amusements to reconstruct the excitement of their past as well as take up gardening. Life is slow-paced on the isolated Texas farm, but a growing relationship with Walter and the responsibility of caring for him establishes a mutual dependency between the three characters.

Walter does discover the money but remains loyal to Garth and Hub, keeping quiet when his mother returns for him from Vegas with her money-hungry boyfriend. In a heart-wrenching scene, Walter says goodbye to Garth and Hub, wealthy enough to buy any form of entertainment but not enough to buy the one thing they want most,their nephew.

There are both positive and negative elements to consider before hastily labeling “Secondhand Lions” appropriate for full family viewing.

LANGUAGE—Throughout the movie, characters Garth and Hub curse, demonstrating a noticeable fondness to the words d*mn and h*ll. The cursing, though somewhat offensive, serves to develop the characters’ persona instead of attract viewers. In another scene, Walter accepts chewing tobacco as a ceremonial of rite-of-passage. Fortunately, he spits the tobacco out quickly, demonstrating to all the sickening aftereffects.

VIOLENCE is moderate. Garth and Hub entertain themselves by shooting at traveling salesmen from the front porch. Clearly they do not intend to kill anyone, but watching men run away in fear is a source of endless enjoyment. The flashback scenes, narrated by Garth, include fighting, but the audience sees no blood. In fact, the fighting scenes are almost comical and more like tall tales. At one point, Hub challenges and fights victoriously with a group of cocky young men in what appears to be an attempt to reaffirm his strength and bravery of younger days. However, the fight ends with a dinner invitation and Hub’s well known what-it-takes-to-be-a-man speech. The violence, much like the cursing, gives the viewer a deeper understanding of the characters.

There is one other important caution to mention, and this might be a “spoiler” for some of you. Please skip this paragraph if you want to be surprised. In the end, Garth and Hub die (this might not be too surprising). It is the manner in which they die that caught my attention. Suicide is not specifically mentioned; however, their death is due to recklessness, and it could be argued that they died intentionally. Older children will most likely make the connection.

The subject of truth is crucial to the story. Walter’s mother lies to him, and his uncles tell him bizarre stories; he desperately desires to learn truth. Uncle Hub (Duvall) explains that truth is not necessary for belief and that belief in something that sounds good makes us feel good. I would argue that as Christians, we have the truth, and we believe, not because it feels good, but because God reveals Himself to us. Parents, this might be an opportunity to discuss the importance of studying and knowing God’s Word and that truth is absolute, not situational. Our belief system drives our actions. Also important is knowing who we are in Christ. We were created to serve the Lord and therein lies our purpose. Searching for significance in other people, jobs, hobbies, or popularity is temporarily satisfying—at best. Walter’s mother jumps from boyfriend to boyfriend in search of love and security.

The film’s handling of the issues of money and wealth are positive, making clear that money’s power to bring happiness is limited. As Christians or non-Christians, we may find ourselves in tribulations our checkbooks cannot correct. Most of us do not have to deal with a lack of food, clothing, transportation, or shelter, but the Lord brings us to a place (whether an illness or personal tragedy) where our money is simply no good. Things we can buy are temporal but our relationships are both eternal and priceless.

Overall, “Secondhand Lions” is a heartwarming story. The acting is superb, but then how could it be otherwise with the talent of Michael Caine and Robert Duvall? Prepare yourself for a nostalgic evening, tears of joy, humor and even a few unanswered questions. Yes, we know a happy ending awaits us, but in the process of getting there, a few unexpected events do rise to the surface.

Violence: Moderate | Profanity: Moderate | Sex/Nudity: Mild

“Secondhand Lions” DVD Review (2004)

The recent New Line Cinema family film “Secondhand Lions” is now available on DVD—and full of plenty of extraordinary special features. All of the better features you may expect, such as deleted and alternate scenes, director commentary and visual effects comparisons are included, but much more besides. Included are three featurettes, one with director Tim McCanlies and New Line producers discussing the development of the script; one on the set of the film during shooting; and one interviewing the “coming of age” actor, Haley Joel Osment.

Additionally, there is also an extraordinary array of CD Rom and online features that can be accessed through your PC. They involve a “Script to Screen” breakdown, comparing the actual movie (viewable on one side) with the actual final draft of the script (viewed on the opposite side). It is an interesting way of seeing how the ideas were executed from the page and which scenes were included or excluded. There is also a “Scene Medley” and a commentary digest of the film. And, there is an image gallery with a host of pictures from the actual movie. The online features include a “Hot Spot” and links to “Secondhand Lions” and New Line Cinema’s Web sites.

In order to view the movie and the special features through your PC, this DVD has included an “InterActual Player” that plays the movie and the extra features. In case your own computer is not equipped with one, they have made sure these features are still accessible. The player is quite nice, and is an easily installation.

Highlighting some of these special features, it’s worth noting the interview with director Tim McCanlies regarding the evolution of the script. After working as a writer in Hollywood for nearly ten years, Tim found his desires migrating to writing what he terms “classic family films.” He grew tired of writing about explosions and car chases and decided to write something with a moral lesson, as you might see in “To Kill A Mockingbird”. So, Tim began to explore the moral lessons he learned growing up as a kid and write about them.

Tim simply states that he wrote the script for “Secondhand Lions” for himself, by himself, and on his own. He finished it in three months time and says that he found it healing for him after working as long as he did in Hollywood.

The featurette on Haley Joel Osment provides some insight into this young actor’s career, beginning with a Pizza Hut commercial. Osment’s dad, who is also an actor, has provided management for his career, as well as mentoring in regards to the craft of acting.

The director commentary is Tim McCanlies alone, explaining most any and everything regarding the making of the film. The film plays in the background, but McCanlies descriptions are the focus here, with only a few slight dips into watching the scene for what it is. Lots of information to be gleaned through this.

Another interesting feature is the alternate ending which was shot for the film. It won’t be explained here, but suffice it to say it is a completely different approach to concluding the story.

Compared to other DVDs, the “Secondhand Lions” release has a wider array of additives than most. If you enjoyed the film, these extra features will quench your thirst for a lot of background details that went in to making this film.

The DVD features widescreen and fullscreen versions of the film, animated menus, filmmaker commentary with director Tim McCanlies, deleted /alternate scenes with optional filmmaker commentary, as well as three documentaries: “Secondhand Lions: One Screenplay’s Wild Ride in Hollywood,” “On The Set with “Secondhand Lions” and “Haley Joel Osment: An Actor Comes of Age.” In addition, the DVD contains visual effects comparisons, Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound, Stereo Surround Sound, English subtitles, Spanish subtitles, closed captions, TV spots and the original theatrical trailer of the film. DVD-ROM content includes the “Script-to-Screen” feature, commentary digest, gallery, and Scene Medleys.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—Great movie. I got teary eyed! Very impressed with the acting and story line. This is not a “Christian” movie per se, yet it has a redeeming message. Some thematic elements with respect to the boy’s mother in the story, and her loose morals. Nonetheless, nothing gratuitous by any means. Strongly recommend.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Michael Angelovic, age 35
Positive—We enjoyed this movie very much. We could see parallels to my husband’s uncle in WWII. Only we did not have a chance to hear most of his adventures. When watching the movie it never entered our minds that suicide was the end of the uncles. It just happened!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Carol Gud, age 65
Positive—This was a very funny, sweet and heart warming film. I wish the main characters had been portrayed more as Christians, but at the end of the film I remember thinking that not only would Walter have them eating healthy and attending PTA meetings, his love for them and their love for him would lead them all to a more healthy spiritual diet of attending church. It never occurred to me either that their deaths were suicides, reckless perhaps, but not suicide. They were men of action and adventure who attempted one final adventure that went wrong. I also felt that the things Hub said to Walter about truth were not contrary to Christian faith; in fact, just the opposite. I believe Hub was trying to help his nephew understand that even though the world will always tell you different there are things worth believing in. This is a message that Christians can affirm and I think the examples of truth that Hub gave could be backed up biblically. This is a really, really good film.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Eddie Hodges, age 47
Positive—I just have one comment to make about the movie with regards to the ending and whether people thought it was suicide. I have to admit that is the first thing that I thought when I saw then ending given the references during the movie on more that one occasion about “going out with your boots on.” It could also be because I live in a state (Oregon) where physician assisted suicide is very much on the front burner here (and has been for years). It was a good movie though, and I enjoyed it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Pamela Allen, age 37
Negative
Negative—In the movie SECONDHAND LIONS, you say “Suicide is not mentioned” and that is true, but if you review the whole content of thought you will see that it is the whole message of the movie. This message is hid well by the “BAD” mother and the “Good” uncles. Just to show a little, here are some of the quotes from the movie.

Uncle Garth: “Did you ask about Jasmine yet?”
Walter: “No.”
Uncle Garth: “Well, you had better make it quick.” (Meaning: He is getting ready to kill himself.)

1:12:55 Walter: “You have to stick around till I’m a man, to give me the whole speech.”
Uncle Hub: “I will write it down.” (meaning: I intend to not be here then because I indend to kill myself.)
Walter: “If you don’t stick around, we’ll all miss you.” (Meaning: you are choosing to not be here.)

1:34:45 Walter: …on a few conditions. 1. You two have to agree to stay until I’m through high school, at least. Preferably through college. 2. No more dangerous stuff… (like fighting with young people and flying airplanes.)…
Uncle Hub: “What do you expect us to die of, old age?” (Meaning: We are planing to end our lifes before then.)

My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Tony Walker, age 56 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—Excellent!!! This was a great movie and I would recommend it to adults and older children. It is very different from any other movie I’ve seen and I think that’s what makes it interesting. I loved the imagery in the stories the Uncles told and I think that that subplot is part of what makes the movie interesting. The acting was wonderful and there was no questionable material, although the Uncles do swear a bit—but you have to realize that that’s their character and that’s the kind of person the actors are trying to portray. A+
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Emily, age 15
Positive—I loved it! Very imaginative, very humorous, extremely exciting, “Secondhand Lions” will bring tears to your eyes, laughs in your throats, and questions into your head. All though there was a little mild swearing, such as da*n and h*ll, I find that it was quite true to the bible. Uncle Hub tells Walter that all though the world will tell you otherwise, there are somethings that are worth believing in, something that Christians can agree with. I also found it quite funny about how Walter’s eccentric uncles ended their lives: they flew their airplane through the roof of the barn! I also found it amusing on how they spent the money: a boat almost as big as the pond, which definitely can be compared to Noah and the ark. If I was a judge, I’d give it a nine!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Cassie, age 10
Positive—This movie was excellent, A very big family movie. I would bring this movie to every family in the world. I highly recomend this movie 5 stars.
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Rebekah, age 12
Positive—The movie “Secondhand Lion” was emotional, funny, and adventurous all in one. My two sisters ages five and eight loved this movie. It taught a valuable lesson to contributing to other people.Although this movie was enchanting it had a few instances of bad language you would want to be aware of for smaller children. I definitely recommend this movie for all aged children.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Madison, age 10