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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.