Secondhand Lions

Secondhand Lions Information

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.


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 who are 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), the one true love of Hub's life. Soon after, husband-and-wife relatives Ralph and Helen arrive with their children, hoping to worm their way into the uncles' good graces for a chance at their treasure. Believing that Walter is also there for the money, Ralph and Helen use the threat of foster care to force the boy to run away. Walter makes his way to a filling station, and uses a phone booth to call the court reporting school which his mother told him she was attending only to learn she wasn't there and had lied again. The two uncles see the boy, Hub is initially glad to see him on his way, however, Garth convinces Hub to bring him back home.

Walter begins to settle into the household, contending with his uncles' odd habits, such as Hub's sleepwalking at night in which he fights old battles, as well as their daily routine of shooting at traveling salesmen for fun. Curious, Walter suggests that Hub and Garth should at least hear one salesman's pitch and end up buying clay pigeon launcher. This infuriates the relatives causing them to leave. To drive off boredom they order a lion from a circus animal dealer with the intent of killing it for sport. They are disappointed upon opening the crate to discover an aging, tame lioness. Walter adopts the lioness, naming her Jasmine, which brings back painful memories to Hub. Later, Hub passes out loading fifty 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 teaches them a lesson in fighting. In their absence, Ralph and Helen's children accidentally release the lioness from her crate just as Hub and Garth. Walter goes in search of Jasmine, and finds her in the cornfield, which then becomes her new "jungle" home. When Walter notices Hub lecturing the four toughs, Garth explains it's Hub's special speech designated for the growing man.

Their past is also revealed throughout the story as Garth explains it. On the eve of World War I, a young Hub and Garth arrived in France just as Germany invaded the country. They soon found themselves shanghaied and conscripted into the French Foreign Legion, which led them to fight in many battles. After the war, Garth became a guide in Africa, while Hub travelled the world. During his journeys, Hub met and fell in love with Jasmine, a princess promised to wed a powerful Sheik. When Hub rescued her, the Sheik put a price of ten thousand gold pieces on Hub's head. This kept the young lovers in constant peril from assassins and bounty hunters. Finally, Hub arranged for Garth, in the guise of a bounty hunter, to get him close to the Sheik, while Garth took possession of the Sheik's reward. Hub then fought and won a duel against the Sheik but spared his life. He warned the Sheik that if this vendetta didn't stop, Hub would kill him. This ends the Sheik's manhunt. When Walter asks to hear more, Garth tells him that he must find out the rest from Hub.

Later, Walter awakens his uncle from another late night bout of sleepwalking to ask about Jasmine's fate. Hub reveals that Jasmine and their unborn child died in childbirth. Bereft of his one true love, Hub returned to the Legion to escape his grief, until he retired with Garth to their Texas farm. Walter then realizes that all the stories Garth has been telling him might actually be true, but he asks Hub to confirm it, since his mother tells him nothing but 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 that he will be around to give Walter the rest of the speech when he's old enough, to which 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 late night, Walter's mother and her current suitor, a supposed "private investigator" named Stan arrive at the farm. While Hub and Garth are still asleep, Stan and Mae demand that Walter reveal the location of the fortune, claiming that Hub and Garth were actually bank robbers, that Jasmine was their accomplice, and the money is theirs for the taking. To Mae's surprise and dismay, Walter chooses to believe in his uncles instead of her. Angered, Stan drags Walter to the barn and becomes threatening and physically abusive. Walter then tells Stan to defend himself before kicking him between the legs. Walter runs toward the house, past the cornfield, where Stan intercepts Walter and begins hitting him while Walter is on his back. Sensing Walter in danger, Jasmine the lioness emerges from the cornfield to attack Stan, leaving him badly mauled. Awakened by the ruckus, Hub and Garth find that the old lioness has died of heart failure in the attack. Hub and Garth tell Walter that the lioness was "protecting her cub," and Walter proudly observes that Jasmine was "a real lion... at the end".

The next day, Walter leaves with his mother, after receiving pressure from the uncles to distance themselves from Stan. She replies that she intends to drop him off in Las Vegas. However, once on the road, Mae tells Walter that Stan will be staying with them to recuperate. This prompts Walter to finally confront her, asking his mother to finally "do something that's best for me for once." Soon, Hub and Garth are greatly pleased to see Walter's return. However, the boy insists that there have to be changes, that 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 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. Their will declares "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 (Daniel Brooks). Approaching Walter, he explains that, 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 (Daniel Brooks) asks Walter if his uncles were indeed real, that they really lived, Walter confirms, "Yeah. They really lived."



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 comic strips drawn by the adult Walter in the film were drawn by Berkeley Breathed, creator of Bloom County.


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 Reporters 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.


A musical adaptation will open at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre in 2013.

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