Reviewed by: Caroline Mooney
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—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
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—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), See all »|
|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
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.