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Secondhand Lions Second

by FAIR on 19th September 2005

Has it really been two years since we were last treated to a Haley Film? How interesting that it was also two years prior to 19-September-2003, that we were swept away by yet another overwhelming Haley experience in film, "A.I. Artificial Intelligence". Of course we can never forget that it was two years earlier still, in which the whole world would be knocked back a couple of rows in the theatre by the kind of performance nobody had ever seen before from someone so young. "The Sixth Sense" set the standard for what is possible, and is now almost demanded from every young actor since... but what folly to think that such a performance could be duplicated by anyone other than the original author of that performance. Double time to the present day and the second anniversary since the release of "Secondhand Lions", we can smile again as Haley is currently focusing all of his creative talent, and is calling upon the magic that seemingly only he possesses, into his next cinematic offering, "Home of the Giants". Such thoughts, I am sure, will put a sparkle into both of your eyes.

So, a very sweet little film, "Secondhand Lions", is now two years old. I must admit that it was a bit of a struggle to come up with something appropriate for this second anniversary. What you are reading now is my third attempt at finding the words adequate for what I want to say, in a style that will hopefully remain true to this occasion. My first thoughts felt hollow when compared to the intimate story as presented in the film. My next attempt felt lifeless and eventually lead to a dead end. So I scrapped them both, and allowed the days to tick away trying to find some inspiration. No need for a timeline, as time is irrelevant when discussing a timeless family classic like "Secondhand Lions".

The first glimmer of inspiration came while watching the bonus features available on "The Incredibles" DVD. Included on the second disc is one animated short that was nominated for an Oscar called, " Boundin' ". It is a wonderful little feature that was written, directed, and performed by one of the original Pixar animators, Bud Luckey. The style, and choice of words used in the script, and lessons learned, all had a similar feel to what I experience when watching "Secondhand Lions". How I missed this sub five minute short the first time I was exploring the DVD is beyond me, as I ended up watching the short probably 10+ times in a row. I don't mind saying that this brief bit of animation left a bigger impression on me, than anything I got from watching "The Incredibles". I don't want that to sound like a knock against that film, but Boundin' now has a place in my heart.

The source of the rest of the inspiration I would need would come while exploring the recently re-released, now as a "Legacy Series" DVD, of "To Kill A Mockingbird". A true masterpiece of a classic film that oddly enough featured the screen debut of a then unknown Robert Duvall... and suddenly you can see how all the pieces would start to fall into place for this particular special anniversary.

I always find it helpful when looking for inspiration about what to write for Haley, is to consult what the legends and greats of the film industry have done in the past. I cannot help but think that he is one of the rare few who has managed to find the path, and will follow in their footsteps, with the choices he has made, and how he conducts his career. Gregory Peck gave a brilliant performance in "To Kill A Mockingbird" that would eventually win him a best actor Oscar. I cannot help but see at least a little something of him, being reflected by Haley. If I used words like dignity, class, and honour... would I be talking about Gregory Peck, or am I talking about Haley? If I described the film as being about innocence, strength, and conviction... am I describing "To Kill A Mockingbird", or am I describing "Secondhand Lions"?

That is not to say I am making a direct comparison between Mr. Peck and Mr. Osment, nor am I directly comparing TKAM and SHL. I just think it is possible to see a similar parallel between their two careers, if it were possible to experience a kidactor career by Mr. Peck, and the true heart and themes found in both films... even though both films are quite different.

Many will recall the somewhat "mixed" reviews when "Secondhand Lions" was first released two years ago. Most that saw the film enjoyed it a great deal, but it did have some trouble finding acceptance from many of the cynical film critics that think themselves capable of reviewing a film. I suppose a part of that can be explained by the less than fulfilling marketing campaign given to the film,and the director himself, Tim McCanlies, always said that it would be a tough film to market. I sometimes wonder how a film like "To Kill A Mockingbird" would be marketed today, and what sort of reaction it would generate from those same cynical critics. Simple character driven pieces are always so difficult for them to grasp.

During his AFI Award acceptance speech, Mr. Peck made mention that with all the glamorous corporate mergers in the media industry, he would 'like to hear some glamourous talk about elevating the quality of films and television.' I cannot help but think that over the course of Haley's brief, but brilliant career, he has been trying to do just that. Mr. Peck would then continue with some words that I think are easily seen mirrored both in Haley's career, and in "Secondhand Lions", when he quoted T. S. Elliot about Entertainment... [that it] "Enlarges the sympathies; that stimulates the mind and the spirit; that warms the heart; punctures the baloon of hypocrisy, greed, and sham; tickles the funny bone, and leaves us with a glow that comes when we have been well entertained." The complete AFI speech is available as a bonus feature on the TKAM DVD... it is something special.

At the heart of "Secondhand Lions" is a brief snippet of another wonderful speech given by a now very well known Robert Duvall as Hubb McCann...

Quote:

"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honour, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this... that love... true love never dies! Remember that boy, remember that. Doesn't matter if it is true or not, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in. Got that?"

It is in those words that the true heart of the film can be found. Pretty much every scene is dedicated to ensuring those words are realized in one form or another with the three well written and very strong characters found in the film... Hubb, Garth, and of course, Walter.

Naturally, some of the myopic critics would take the first line of that speech out of context and cry out for all to hear..."what kind of a sham is this film, it is telling us to believe in something that is not true!!" I can just imagine what they would be crying out if they were to learn, "It's a sin to kill a mockingbird." If only it were possible to make these people understand that the point of the entire speech was that you should hold onto those values that are especially important, (like honour, courage and virtue mean everything), even when everything else, and everyone around you, are claiming they are not true and mean nothing. That is when you should believe in those values the most.

To put that in a more practical frame of reference, basically history is filled, (and we know how much Haley enjoys studying history), with examples of when some idea proved to be quite popular. If you were to ask why things are the way they are, far too many people might respond, 'that is just the way it is... live with it.' Luckily, there have always been at least a few people of special conscience that were willing to object to an idea that was inherently wrong... and that is why Hubb was in North Africa trying to put an end to the slave trade. Some pretty heavy stuff for such a sweet little family film.

As an example, later on in the film when Stan and Mae were shovelling their story onto Walter about Hubb and Garth being bank robbers, and as the doubts started to enter Walter's mind as he stared at the barn remembering how the money looked like it was "lifted" straight from a bank vault, he held true to his belief that Hubb and Garth were basically good and were not capable of such evil as was being claimed. That was a series of scenes played heart achingly perfect by Haley, as he completed Walters' character arc by summoning the courage to stand up to Stan by telling him to "defend yourself", as the music for Hubb swelled in the background. If Walter could do that, then it became possible for him to jump from a moving vehicle when before he couldn't even sit in the back seat without getting sick, and the ultimate test of instructing his two larger than life uncles on the conditions that he will continue to live with them... and of course they would accept his terms.

I mean, my gosh... how is that for a wonderful and brilliant character... brought to life with such subtle perfection by Haley that many even attributed the clumsiness of the "early" Walter, as being a real life trait of the real Haley. How could anyone be so blind to such an amazing performance. It is so easy to see and understand why Haley would want to lend his name to this project, in order to get it green lighted to be made. They were waiting for the right script for him to come along, and this one had perfect timing.

Sure it has been two years since we were last treated to a new character by Haley, this time Walter Caldwell from "Secondhand Lions", and before that David Swinton from "A.I. Artificial Intelligence". But we almost need those two years, if not longer, to fully understand and appreciate the strength of the character, and the true depth of Haley's amazing performance to bring that character to life. Now Haley is working on another character, Robert "Gar" Gartland from "Home of the Giants", I am sure it will be someone just as special.

It has been two years since Hubb, Garth, and Walter brought their simple southern story to life, and it has been fourty two years since most were finally able to see Atticus, Jem, and Scout bring their simple southern story to life as well. I cannot help but wonder how "Secondhand Lions" will be received in another fourty years... if it is even half as well as Haley is received today, then SHL will truly be a timeless family classic.

So... what have I achieved with this second anniversary tribute... well this was just you (the reader) and me sitting on an old dusty front porch, while I have told you an amazing story about one little film that has come to mean so much to me. I know not everyone will share this same vision, and think me a rather poor storyteller to boot... , but at least you will have a better insight into why a great many feel that "Secondhand Lions" was a truly wonderful addition to Haley's filmography.

It can never be said enough... thanks Haley for giving all of us so many wonderful, special, and unique characters. Each one is a work of art, and could only be brought to life by such an amazing and talented artist. You are the best.

IMPORTANT NOTE

These articles are gathered here from all over as a resource for serious fans and theatre students interested in Secondhand Lions and the filmography of Haley Joel Osment , Michael Caine, Robert Duvall and director Tim McCanlies. All articles have been credited to the original authors and have been linked back to the original website in which the articles were published. The webmaster of this site does NOT benefit or profit in any way from hosting these articles, and if we have inadvertantly breached any copyright, we apologise in advance and will remove the article as soon as we are informed of the copyright breach. We do ask for your understanding as this is purely a fansite built for the benefit for other fans and serious film students. Thank you.

The webmaster

 

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