If you missed “Secondhand Lions” in theaters last summer, you have another chance to see this fantastic family-friendly film. It’s being released on DVD and VHS today.
Set in 1962 rural Texas, “Lions” tells the story of young Walter (Haley Joel Osment), dumped by his mother (Kyra Sedgwick) on the farm of his eccentric uncles, Hub and Garth (Robert Duvall and Michael Caine, respectively). Hub and Garth teach Walter about becoming a man—and believing in things that really matter.
The trio lives an adventurous life on the farm that summer, even as the story flashes back to Hub and Garth’s swashbuckling days—the source of their alleged millions that remain stashed away somewhere on their property.
Films that defy categorization are often some of the best, and “Lions” fits this bill. The movie itself is one the family can watch together, and the DVD’s special features further enhance its potential for a good addition to the home library.
The DVD contains three documentaries: “Haley Joel Osment: An Actor Comes of Age”; “On the Set With ‘Secondhand Lions'”; and “One Screenplay’s Wild Ride in Hollywood.”
The latter is an exceptional look at how a script like “Secondhand Lions”—character-driven, family friendly, infused with moral philosophy—gets made (or not) in Hollywood. This documentary features writer and director Tim McCanlies talking about the script’s genesis and journey; it also includes some of the film’s producers talking about their role in getting the script to the screen.
Viewers will learn about early plans to have Paul Newman and Robert Redford star in the film (as a sort of follow-up to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”), only to have that idea abandoned in favor of getting Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon to make the film a type of “Grumpy Old Men III.”
Through all of the suggested transformations, McCanlies held firm to his vision. Some of the most enlightening parts of this DVD—or any other—involve letters McCanlies sent to studio heads who wanted fundamental changes to the script. He essentially told them they didn’t get what he was trying to accomplish because getting it required them to use equipment they didn’t have, like “taste” and “a sense of humor.”
The “on the set” documentary is an enlightening portrait of how the filmmakers used Austin, Texas, and surrounding areas as their shooting locations. This documentary includes interviews with all of the principal actors, and it also details the challenges and rewards of working with animals, which “Lions” required.
The 12-minute feature about Osment’s rise to fame provides a nice look at the maturity of this young star, while the alternate and deleted scenes develop these strong characters even more.
One of the draws of this DVD is actually the inclusion of the original, scripted ending. In fact, one can watch all of the alternate and deleted scenes with the “director commentary” turned on, and McCanlies does a superb job of sharing the logic by which he made his directorial decisions on these difficult excisions.
New Line Cinema’s “Secondhand Lions” is a terrific DVD.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
Click here to buy the DVD now from Amazon.com.
Click here to read our review of “Secondhand Lions.”
Also read these other EthicsDaily.com features about the film: