Studio: New Line
Film Length: 107 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1), Full Frame (1.33:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Retail Price: $27.95
Twelve-year-old Walter (Haley Joel Osment) has lived rather difficult life with his mother (Kyra Sedgwick). He has constantly been told lies by his mother as they travel across the country going from one home to another. One day, out of nowhere, the mother tells Walter that he is going to go live with his two uncles for the summer. She also informs him that the uncles had disappeared for over forty years only to be seen very recently. The mother’s plan comes out when she asks Walter to search for their money, which is believed to be in the millions.
Garth (Michael Caine) and Hub (Robert Duvall) aren’t too thrilled with having a boy dropped off in their sheltered world but the mother talks them into keeping him so that they can turn him into a man. After a few quiet moments Garth eventually opens up to the young kid with his calm stories about the past and how they really got all the money that they’ve got hidden. Hub on the other hand decides to teach Walter about life, which ranges from fist fights to love. Soon the three become very close but the mother eventually returns with her eyes set on the money and not necessarily her son.
Secondhand Lions is a wonderful little gem, which was sadly overlooked in theaters, which is a shame because the film goes for the heart instead of mindless action. This is the type of film that the entire family could enjoy because it contains just about everything any film should have. There’s plenty of deep messages throughout the film but there’s also a wonderful adventures, nice comedy touches and most importantly the film is just downright fun from start to finish. It’s rather rare today for a film to try all of these at once but this film pulls it off without any hitches.
No matter how great a screenplay is you need the acting to bring it to life and the three leads do a superb job here. Robert Duvall isn’t considered one of the greatest character actors for no reason and he does wonders with his role here. Of the two brothers, Duvall gets to play the overly hyper childlike guy and he does a wonderful job at playing a kid trapped inside an older man’s body. Everything from Duvall’s walk to his mannerisms strike true and even smaller stuff like staring out at the lake rings with such depth that even the fist fights come off with realism. Michael Caine, another one of the greatest character actors, has a much more quiet role yet he makes the character just as lively as Duvall’s. Caine is pretty much the wiser, calm brother and he does the storytelling. That brilliant voice is full of such wonderful emotion that it’s no problem believing everything that comes out of his mouth. Haley Joel Osment is the big buzz today amongst child actors and I personally think every bit of the praise is warranted. Being able to hold your own against two veterans is as impressive as you can get.
The film is pretty much broken down into two stories. The first story deals with the young boy trying to make sense of his life and most importantly his relationship with his mother. Most of the elements are standard coming of age stuff but director Tim McCanlies never lets the material become too familiar. We’ve seen stories of boys going to live with crazy relatives but the director keeps everything very simple and goes for the heart instead of trying to do anything else. The two uncles don’t really want this kid but as time goes on they realize that their life really doesn’t have much going for it so they teach the boy about life and he teaches them about living again.
The second part of the story deals with the past of the two uncles. Caine tells the boy stories, which takes them around the world from Africa to different wars and this is where the adventure comes in. These stories are so far out there that we can’t help but think the uncle could be lying and when the mother returns with proof that they are, the director gives a slight pause where he lets the viewer, as well as Osment decide who’s telling the truth and what exactly the truth is. This silent moment speaks for everything they’ve taught the boy and the film’s message comes through in this quiet moment, which is surrounded by excitement.
Secondhand Lions sounds like a film we’ve seen countless times before but thankfully the screenplay allows for some fun and tender moments at the same time. The ending certainly packs a wonderful punch but instead of going for tears, the director instead offers us another moment to think about what we’ve seen and leave the film with a smile. It’s not often that a film can contain so much heart and not become overly sappy but this film pulls it off. Hopefully the movie will get a second life on DVD and families will check it out not only for its story but because of the three terrific performances, which would make any story believable.
VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The picture quality is great for the most part but there are a few artifacts that are very noticeable. Some minor edge enhancement is also visible in brighter scenes but this here isn’t too distracting. The rest of the transfer really brings the film to life. This is a very bright and colorful movie and thankfully the color detail is very strong and vivid. The skies are beautifully blue and the scenes in the desert look wonderful as well. The black levels are very solid and the flesh tones look very accurate. A full frame version is also included on the disc.
AUDIO---The sound is Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround and I’m sure many will be disappointed over the lack of a DTS track but those thoughts will be put to rest within the first few seconds of this track. The film opens with a plane flying across the screen and the ripping soundtrack has the sound moving from the left to the right and it will certainly leave your walls shaking. The dialogue is crystal clear and upfront, sounding wonderful but this track will certainly be remembered for all the action. In the flashback sequences there are many sword fights, which sound incredible as does the constant gunfights. The wildlife sounds also sound incredibly well. A Dolby Digital Surround track is also included.
EXTRAS---First up is an audio commentary with the director, which is full of life without a single quiet moment. The director talks so much that you can’t help but think five commentaries wouldn’t have been enough for him. He gushes over his cast quite often but who could blame him? There’s a lot of talk about what he based the story on plus some wonderful behind the scenes stuff, which makes the track very easy to listen to. Disc 2 is where we find the rest of the extras. Up first are three featurettes, all worth viewing at least once. One Screenplay’s Wild Ride in Hollywood runs just over twenty-five minutes and is very entertaining. Most featurettes of this type just talk about the actual screenplay but this here goes into all the work it takes to actually get it turned into a film. On the Set with Secondhand Lions also runs just over twenty-five minutes and this has various interviews with the cast as well as behind the scenes footage. The interviews are very good and it’s nice seeing the cast having so much fun. Haley Joel Osment: An Actor Comes of Age is a pretty silly piece but I’m sure fans of the star will enjoy it. We are basically given his career story, which runs twelve-minutes. Up next are ten deleted and alternate scenes, which I usually find boring but that’s not the case here. I actually enjoyed each one of the scenes and thought any of them could have been left in the film. You can view each of these with an optional commentary by the director. All are shown anamorphic widescreen as well. Finally we get a visual effects comparison, a theatrical trailer and seven TV spots.
OVERALL---The film certainly isn’t a masterpiece but it’s been quite a while since Hollywood pumped out a film, which has a real story with real emotions. The brilliant performances from Duvall and Caine make this a must see. New Line once again offers a wonderful Platinum Series release with a good amount of extras plus a very good transfer. The highlight of the disc however is the incredible Dolby Digital EX 5.1 track, which will certainly put a smile on your face.
Release Date: February 3, 2004