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Secondhand Lions Fourth

by FAIR on 19th September 2007

Today is the fourth anniversary since "Secondhand Lions" was released, and it is interesting to reflect on how this film filled a need back then, and the desire for films such as this today. Of course it goes without saying that the greatest need was for a new Haley film back then, and that deep desire is no less dimished today, but a film like "Secondhand Lions" also gave us something so much more. By more I am not talking about something crass like box-office receipts, although this modest little film did quite well for itself when looked at from the perspective of those that know the cost of everything, and yet understand the value of nothing. But in this particular case, the more falls toward how much is in your heart, and not the amount recorded in a ledger.

Back in 2003 there was no shortage of "big ledger" films in every sense of the term, and somewhere in the media storm surrounding releases like "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl", "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King", "Mystic River", and "Finding Nemo", was a new Haley film about a young teenage boy left to spend the summer with his two larger than life great uncles. Such an unassuming little story when compared to films based on Tolkien, or the next animated wonder from Pixar, but the great leveler is always in how well a story is told.

Written and directed by Tim McCanlies, and remembering his previous written work includes another unassuming little film: "The Iron Giant", it was his skill as a storyteller when matched with the incredible acting talent of Haley Joel Osment, that the scope of this film could finally be realised. It was in the eyes and imagination of the character played by Haley that this story is told, and switching between his less than ideal reality and the seemingly fantasy lives lived in the stories told to him by his uncles, proved how adept Mr. McCanlies was at capturing this story on film. Like a maestro conducting an orchestra, he was able to progress the reality and the fantasy without missing a beat, and the ease in which he slipped between both worlds gave us an equal measure of other films from that year. From the action and adventure and skill with a sword worthy of any pirate or ranger, to all the drama associated with feelings of abandonment or diminished self-worth that can sometimes overwhelm us, as the reality of the film was easy to identify with for many in their own lives.

The strength of that achievement was made possible by Haley's masterful portrayal of his character, as it was through his reactions that brought focus and centered the film. Because he was able to remain true to his character and in the reality of the moment, each step as his character progressed from the beginning to the end of the film felt real, right down to the smallest details that hardly ever get noticed. Just one example would be from the very first night when Walter comes out of the house to catch up with a sleepwalking Uncle Hub. He pauses at the porch steps and looks down while he decends the stairs to ensure his footing as he proceeds for the first time in the dark, and that was a very real moment, and is something most everyone does without thinking. Such is the depth of reality that Haley brings to his characters, as there is never a time when he is not in the moment for the scene. Some might think that such a moment is not even worth mentioning, but it is exactly all those little moments Haley used to evolve his character that gave his performance so much meaning. He was not just listing the conditions under which he would stay with his uncles at the end of the film, he was giving them his what every great uncle needs to know about raising a boy speech. It was in a moment like that with what he was saying, and who he was emulating, that you could then begin to appreciate just how far Haley had brought his character since the beginning of the film.

Only that level of talent could bring the true depth of this story to life, and this story written by Mr. McCanlies was very rewarding and so enriching in that regard. Filled with adventure and some honest humour, and all built on a solid base of ideals like honour, virtue, and courage. The film and this story presents these ideas just as you would expect them, with dignity and respect, and only actors that personify class like Mr. Caine and Mr. Duvall and Mr. Osment could present them without any hint of a false facade. That is what great storytelling and exceptional filmmaking is all about, and that is exactly what we have come to expect from every Haley film.

In the time since the release of this film there have been a couple more pirate movies, and even another giant transforming robot movie, and yet what "Secondhand Lions" continues to show is that a story well told, and a film well acted is more rich and rewarding than those films that only lead by receipts because of the hype or technical wizardry. Some might call the "big ledger" films an event that everyone must see, but for me the last big event film was four years ago when a movie about secondhand lions offered only the best the film industry could provide. Of course there have been great films since then, and even movies of great entertainment, but greatness does not even come close to what it means to have a new Haley film, and "Secondhand Lions" remains as an example of what so many other films can only hope to achieve... and you cannot put a value on that.

Haley films are the best.


Webmaster's Response
Fair, you hit the nail on the head with this observation.

Haley's portrayal of Walter was as amazing as any of his previous roles, even though many people, including some of Haley's fans on this board, are inexplicably dismissive not only of his performance as Walter, but also of this charming film.

Haley's Walter was spot on .... gangly, insecure, awkward and twitchy , and who could blame Walter for being like that , growing up with a string of replacement "fathers" and having to move from town to town.... and it was astounding to see him transform into a confident young man by film's end , a transformation that was achieved by yet another inspired reading of a character by Haley Joel Osment, no mean feat.

In many ways, I feel that Haley's Walter was every bit as beautifully portrayed as Haley's David, Haley's Cole, and Haley's Trevor. Each character was so different from each other, each character so perfectly portrayed in each film, and coming from an actor as young as Haley was at the time when he was filming those roles is really nothing short of breathtaking.

I can hardly wait to get to know Haley's Gar .

Fair, thank you for another great look back on Secondhand Lions, one of my favourite films of all time.

Happy 4th SHL Anniversary

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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