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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Tim McCanlies
Cast:
Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment, Kyra Sedgwick, Nicky Katt, Josh Lucas, Michael O'Neill, Deirdre O'Connell, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Adam Ozturk
Writing Credits:
Tim McCanlies

Synopsis:
For young Walter, (Haley Joel Osment), being stuck in his "crazy" uncles' farm is the last place on earth he wants to spend the summer. First, shocked by their unconventional behavior, including ordering an African lion through the mail, Walter soon gets caught up in their mysterious past. The rumors that his uncles (Academy Award winners Robert Duvall and Michael Caine) were bank robbers - or maybe even worse - are hard to believe, but they do seem to have an endless supply of cash!

Little by little, an amazing story comes to life - filled with adventures in exotic lands involving kidnapped princesses, Arabian sheiks and lost treasure. These tales not only bring him closer to his uncles, but also teach him what it means to believe in something ... whether it's true or not.

Box Office:
Budget
$30 million.
Opening Weekend
$12.139 million on 3013 screens.
Domestic Gross
$41.407 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
English Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $27.95
Release Date: 2/3/2004

Bonus:
• Commentary by director Tim McCanlies
• 30 Minutes of Deleted / Alternate Scenes with Optional Filmmaker Commentary
• "Secondhand Lions" One Screenplay's Wild Ride in Hollywood
• On The Set with "Secondhand Lions"
• Haley Joel Osment: An Actor Comes of Age
• Visual Effects Comparisons
• Theatrical Trailer & 7 TV Spots
• DVD ROM Features
• Easter Eggs


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RELATED REVIEWS


Secondhand Lions: Platinum Series (2003)

Reviewed by David Williams (March 10, 2004)

Writer/Director Tim McCanlies is probably best known to most of you for his screenplay for the very underrated The Iron Giant (cough! special edition! cough!). For those of you who have seen the aforementioned film, you should already know that McCanlies successfully creates a world where adventure, exploration, and sentimentality can exist in equal quantities and still create an engaging film. McCanlies has managed to pull it off again in his latest family-friendly adventure, Secondhand Lions, a very personal and heart-warming story that contains elements that the entire family can enjoy together. While both of McCanlies’ films deal with a recurring theme of teaching a fatherless boy how to become a man, Secondhand Lions seems to be a bit more approachable by a wider range of viewers who don’t necessarily “get” - or care to get - some of the underlying themes in Giant.

The move begins and we meet Walter (Haley Joel Osment), a young adolescent who is being forced by his widowed, worthless, and unreliable tramp of a mother, Mae (Kyra Sedgwick), to spend the summer with some rather eccentric great uncles that he’s never met. Walter’s mother tells him that she wants to go to a “court reporters school” out in Fort Worth to make a better life for herself (she’s really going off to Vegas on a “husband shopping” trip), so she decides to leave him for the summer with his uncles. She swears that he’ll love the experience and that he’ll have a lot of fun … and while he’s at it, she tells Walter that he can search for the hidden millions that his uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine), are rumored to have stashed away somewhere on their farm. Gossip abounds on how the two eccentrics made their supposed fortune, as they practically disappeared for the better part of forty years, only to show back up in Texas during their golden years. Whether they were Mafia hitmen who stole from Al Capone or former bank robbers, Mae doesn’t care. She’s simply hoping that the two old coots will enjoy her son’s company and because of her “thoughtfulness”, will leave her part of their fortune when they pass on. (Turns out that Mae isn’t the only one after the men’s fortune, as throughout the film, other greedy relatives keep showing up, always uninvited and unwanted.)

When we first meet Hub and Garth, they’re none too excited about having a young kid to take care of and watch after for an entire summer. They rather seem to enjoy their days sitting on the front porch, drinking iced tea, and unloading a few rounds of buckshot into the general vicinity of the many traveling salesmen that stop by in order to try and get a piece of the brother’s millions. Hub’s obviously the crustier and tougher of the two, while Garth is the much kinder and gentler of the brothers who’s more than happy to have played second-fiddle and lived in his brother’s shadow all of these years.

It doesn’t take long for Walter to figure out that his mother isn’t off at stenographers school and that he may be in for a bit of an extended stay at his uncle’s home. With no TV, telephone, or anything else around that would peak the interest of a young teen, Walter has only a pet pig and some mongrel dogs to keep him company. However, having a young kid around the house starts wearing well on the old curmudgeons and they start spending some of their cash on some fanciful diversions that range from skeet shooting equipment to some “retired” circus animals.

However, when Walter finds a picture of a beautiful woman buried in a sand-filled chest and sees that sleep-walking is a nightly occurrence with his Uncle Hub, he politely asks Garth just where he and his brother were for those fabled forty years that everyone lost touch with them. Garth happily obliges and begins to spin Walter a tale of two brothers and their almost unbelievable adventures as swashbuckling heroes in the French Foreign Legion. It’s there that Hub fought like a madman and gained quite a heroic reputation, fell in love with an Arab princess (Emmanuelle Vaugier), and even battled a one-eyed sheik (Adam Ozturk) whom the princess was betrothed to against her will. Told via flashbacks that play like a cross between Arabian Nights and Indiana Jones, these fantastical sequences seem quite exaggerated until certain events allow Hub to show that there’s more to him than meets the eye. And it gets more interesting when the money that everyone claims the duo has, is happened upon by Walter himself.

The film not only contains an excellent script to work with, but it’s buoyed by an incredible cast as well. Littered with three Academy Award nominees … and two of them winners … Secondhand Lions has all of its bases covered. Robert Duvall is the more gruff and masculine of the brothers, and the role fits him perfectly, while Michael Caine (with an unusually bad and off-kilter Texas accent) plays the easier going and more level-headed of the two. The weakest link of the trio is unfortunately Osment and while he’s still scary good, his somewhat quirky and awkward stage of pre-pubescence and adolescence makes him a slight impediment to the proceedings. Not a big one mind you, but Osment seems to literally be entering into puberty as the film progresses. (If he is acting … he really is good!)

While Secondhand Lions was a little syrupy and eccentric at times, I still enjoyed it immensely. I knew my emotions and heartstrings were being purposely tugged at and I didn’t mind it one bit. Unashamedly mawkish, the film may have faltered tremendously in less capable hands, but with actors of Duvall, Caine, and Osment’s caliber around to keep things going, it succeeds on a grandiose scale.


The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio A- / Bonus B

Secondhand Lions is a New Line release, so that pretty much puts the video transfer in its own category. Presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85, this anamorphic presentation from the studio is as close to flawless as they come. (For purposes of my review, I only checked out the widescreen version of the film, as New Line has included a cropped 1.33:1 fullframe version of the film on the disc as well. I cannot accurately speak on the fullscreen version of the film since I never viewed it.)

The widescreen image is up to snuff with New Line standards, as the picture remains consistently crisp, tight, and marvelously detailed. For the vast majority of the film, New Line’s image displays excellent definition and clarity, with superior color saturation and balance. The colors in the film were quite brilliant and worked well with the overall “feel good” vibe that Secondhand Lions fwanted to portray. Scenes shot during the daytime were nothing short of spectacular as the luxurious blue skies and lush green fields worked well against the backdrop of the dusty Texas roads and dilapidated old shack the trio calls home. Fleshtones were very stable and accurate throughout and the black levels in the film were appropriately deep and dense, allowing for excellent shadow detail and delineation. The master print is obviously very new and it became even more evident from the lack of flakes and specks on the image, as Secondhand Lions exhibited all of the positive aspects of being a moderately budgeted film from a major studio.

Flaws with the print were minimal, but surprising by ordinary New Line standards. Grain popped up from time to time in a couple of scenes, but it never adversely affected the picture that much. Edge enhancement was noted in a few areas and it seemed to cause some pretty conspicuous haloing, while a smidgen of compression artifacting caught my eye as well. None of these flaws were severe enough to distract from the film, but like I mentioned earlier, they were surprising given New Line’s track record of nearly perfect transfers.

New Line on an off day is still better than most on their best day, so while the film did display some surprising flaws, they weren’t serious enough to drive the film’s score any lower than an A- … Secondhand Lions remains a great looking film regardless.

New Line gives Secondhand Lions a very impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio transfer that will impress even the most die-hard audiophiles out there. It’s a meticulously designed soundfield that takes advantage of high-quality and imaginative sound design, as well as all types of environmental cues, in order to create an impressively immersive affair.

New Line has given the film a first rate transfer, with a very active and expansive soundfield that allows for all kinds of distinct environmental effects to be picked up all throughout the film. The vast majority of the film keeps your front surrounds actively engaged, while the rear surrounds do an excellent job of kicking in at appropriate times in order to prop up more lively scenes or provide a bit more punch to the film’s score. The highs are crisp and clean; the lows are very deep and aggressive; and the track comes across as a very enjoyable listen.

Effects come across as clean and natural and they always start and end from their proper place within the soundstage. Dialogue is a major player in Secondhand Lions and it’s always clear and intelligible. The film’s very appropriate score displays excellent dynamics and fidelity and it’s very well-balanced with the rest of the elements. There are times when it comes on a bit too strong, but not enough to be overly distracting. While the film’s audio transfer never reaches action blockbuster heights, it’s not supposed to … and for what it is, Secondhand Lions has received an impressive transfer.

New Line has also included an English Dolby Surround 2.0 track in English, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.

The “movie side” of the DVD contains an Audio Commentary with write/director Tim McCanlies that is about as good as they come. He provides a very animated and thorough discussion of his story/film and he covers a lot of ground throughout his feature-length commentary, as he rarely stops to take a breath. He speaks on every imaginable subject and covers the genesis and development of the script, casting the film, shooting on location in Texas and certain difficulties that arose, and so on and so forth. McCanlies really enjoyed the whole experience and it’s easy to tell from his good-natured and light-hearted discussion. Even if you’re only remotely interested in Secondhand Lions and how it came it be, this commentary is required listening. Good stuff.

Flipping the disc over, we get to the rest of the Special Features, with the first being Deleted / Alternate Scenes. There are a lot of sequences we can check out here and thankfully, New Line has included a –PLAY ALL- selection for us if we want to use it. There’s also some optional director commentary for all of the scenes that we can turn –on- or –off- at our leisure. Scenes included are; “Walter’s First Fantasy” (1:22), “First Day Alternate Edit” (7:32), “The True Story of the Salesmen” (3:53), “More Helen and the Santa Suit” (3:53), “Burying Santa” (2:02), “The Sheik Rewind” (1:40), “Battle on Horseback” (1:03), “Corn, Corn, Corn” (5:09), “Alternate May and Stan” (5:15), and “Original Ending” (9:27). There’s some decent stuff here … the Original Ending was particularly interesting … but nothing earth-shatteringly great that would have made the film any better than it already was. There’s a lot of material to cover here and this was a really nice inclusion in New Line’s set.

The first documentary on the flip side of the disc is entitled Secondhand Lions: One Screenplay’s Wild Ride In Hollywood (26:08). This is a really interesting supplement that features writer/director Tim McCanlies as he takes us through the very personal development of his story and screenplay and then, how it got shopped around Hollywood and eventually optioned by Warner Brothers. Once optioned, the studio wanted to make some changes that McCanlies vehemently disagreed with. We become privy to some rather harsh e-mails that went back and forth between studio execs and McCanlies as we learn that the studio had all kind of crazy ideas for the story (Redford/Newman would star and Secondhand Lions would serve as a sequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid … or … they would use the script as a sequel to Grumpy Old Men). McCanlies let the option on the film lapse and decided that he would make the film on his terms only. The remainder of the supplement deals with McCanlies’ journey to get the film made and how Haley Joel Osment’s name being attached to the project actually helped the film get made. This was a really incredible and unique supplement that I enjoyed immensely. Fans of the film definitely don’t want to pass on this one. Make sure you check Wild Ride out … it’s more than worth the investment.

On The Set With Secondhand Lions (26:06) is next and this serves as our typical, run-of-the-mill “Making Of” or “First Look” type documentary. It’s full of the standard information we’ve all seen and heard on these types of supplements before, as the cast and crew discuss what it was like shooting on location in Texas, creating the farmhouse that served as the centerpoint of the film (which was an actual couple’s home that was converted to look older), the characters in the film and the actors who played them, shooting the film in actual script sequence, and so on. There’s obviously a lot of praise and back-slapping going on in the supplement, but that’s to be expected. Which one of these types of supplements doesn’t do this? Even so, if you’re interested in how Secondhand Lions came to be and you just want to get the surface information, On The Set is a good way in which to do just that.

Next we find Haley Joel Osment: An Actor Comes Of Age (12:38), a quick and fluffy biographical sketch on the young actor. We get an interview with the actor himself, as he reminisces about his beginnings in the industry (a Pizza Hut commercial), mentoring with his father and how they work together to prepare for films, and so on. Osment then goes on to discuss a little bit about the specifics of preparing for Secondhand Lions and what it was like working with Robert Duvall and Michael Caine. Ultimately, this was a decent documentary, but nothing you’d really watch more than once.

Finishing off the disc are a couple of Visual Effects Comparisons (nothing really worthy of mention), the film’s Theatrical Trailer, as well as seven TV Spots.

Secondhand Lions has some impressive DVD-ROM supplements that include weblinks, a nicely implemented script-to-screen viewer, an expansive library of stills, and some “Scene Medleys”. There’s also a pretty cool feature entitled “Commentary Digest” that allow you to access some of the director’s actual handwritten notes and thoughts on particular scenes and moments in the film. While I’m not, nor have I ever been, a big fan of DVD-ROM material, New Line has added some really nice features for their release of Secondhand Lions.

A profitable venture for New Line, but far from being a blockbuster, Secondhand Lions presents a feel-good film that the entire family can sit down and enjoy together. The film doesn’t hide from or apologize for the fact that it’s a syrupy-sweet affair … and it shouldn’t. It’s a rarity these days that outside of Disney or Pixar, there’s a mainstream film that the entire family, young and old alike, can watch as a unit and all feel good about when it’s over. Well, Secondhand Lions is that kind of film and New Line has provided the perfect vehicle for families to enjoy the experience over and over again in the comfort of their own homes.

With New Line’s excellent audio and video transfers, as well as the inclusion of some moderately entertaining extras, Secondhand Lions comes highly recommended … warm fuzzies included.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5227 Stars Number of Votes: 44
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