Every now and then you come across a movie that looks decent, has a pretty good cast in it, at least a couple people you recognize at least, and has a decent story. Well, Secondhand Lions is quite a bit better than that since as one of the most underrated movies around it’s actually pretty entertaining and offers up a few good life lessons disguised as a pleasing story about a young boy that is sent to live with his two crusty old great-uncles. This movie was made back when Haley Joel Osment was still considered to be a cute kid and a possibly up and coming talent that might have done something with his career. Of course by this time he’d already made himself known through his roles in Forrest Gump, AI, and of course The Sixth Sense, so it might have been easy to say that people were getting a bit tired of him, or not. Putting him in with greats like Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, and even Kyra Sedgwick however was asking a lot of this kid since up until this movie he’d been pretty well-received, but placing him next to big talents almost always seemed to drown him out in a sense. Secondhand Lions though was a movie that many people felt took the high road when it could have gone inescapably dark thanks to the context of the story.
If you haven’t seen the movie it’s a definite must since the idea of Walter being dropped off by his mother, played by Sedgwick, who’s kind of a flighty, hopeless case that thinks only of her own needs and barely thinks of Walter, is kind of tragic and even horrifying in this day and age. Back in the days when kids were still dropped off with relatives that wanted little to nothing to do with them however but would still take them in this might have seemed normal. But giving a young kid up to two older, very crotchety old men seems like something right out of a messed up fairy tale that even the Brothers Grimm might raise an eyebrow at. Hub and Garth McCann were the kind of guys that didn’t want much, didn’t do much, and didn’t expect much except to kick off in the middle of the night eventually since they were getting so old. But once Garth warms up to Walter and starts telling him the story of how he and Hub were tricked into joining the French Foreign Legion Walter is hooked, and thanks to the picture he finds in the attic where he’s put up he begins to believe the stories that his Uncle Garth tells him, imagining the days of high adventure as Hub and Garth made their way through a world that was far different than the one Walter knows.
Surprisingly Rotten Tomatoes gave this movie a pretty good score and the fans gave it even better, which makes it confusing as to why it never got much play when it was released. It could be that it’s a more family-oriented movie that plays with a hint of action than anything, which in show business means that it’s worth of a nod but not much more. In truth though this movie is worth a lot more since it brings back values and the kind of upbringing that’s not perfect by any means but does manage to teach people something of respect, honor, and a zest for living that some would argue has never left but others would state is sorely lacking in this day and age. In a big way Secondhand Lions is a return to the kind of life that a lot of us would love to see, though it’s not likely to happen and it’s not bound to occur in this lifetime. The days of sitting on the front porch with an ice-cold glass of iced tea, a shotgun in one’s lap to ward off any unwanted trespassers, and a small troupe of dogs, with a pig thrown in for variety, are pretty much well and gone at this point unless you visit certain parts of the country. But getting to relive those days if even for a short while is good enough since this movie reminds us that there are moments in life when the hustle and bustle of life is best left behind for the simpler and more profound moments that are discovered in the silence of a warm summer day.
If there’s any other message to pull from this movie it’s that there is such a thing as living well and it’s not bound up in the money we make or the pursuits that we think will make us happy at all times. It’s the simple pride of knowing that we’ve lived a life that’s worth living, and that when the time comes we’ll go out with our boots on.