Follow TV Tropes


Film / Secondhand Lions

Go To

"Sometimes, the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage and virtue mean everything...that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love...true love never dies."

In this 2003 film set in the 1960s, Walter, played by Haley Joel Osment, is dumped off on his great uncles by his ditzy mom, who says she needs some time to herself so she can go to court reporting school. The uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine), don't like having a 'kid' around cramping their style, but eventually warm to him, and he to them. The uncles are a little...eccentric (they fish by shooting bass with their shotguns, and spend their days chasing off traveling salesmen...with their shotguns), but time proves them to be surprisingly capable foster dads. Walter is awed by Hub's crazy ways, while Garth spins tales of their adventuring days of yore. Are any of the stories true — including the one about the uncles sitting on a hidden stash of plundered wealth? And how did they afford to buy that lion?


Co-produced by New Line Cinema and Digital Domain.

This movie provides examples of:

  • "Arabian Nights" Days: The mundane version.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Played for laughs. When going after Jasmine the Lion because they think she's mauling Walter, the group includes a young girl who clearly won't be able to handle the recoil of the shotgun she's holding and two boys who aren't big enough to handle a shotgun each so the bigger one holds grip while the smaller one supports the barrel.
  • Assassin Outclassin'
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The brothers McCann are able to assume control of any situation by being calmly assertive. And armed.
  • Badass Grandpa: While not technically Walter's grandfather, Hub can take on four guys a quarter of his age, unarmed and still beat them. Also various enemies of the Foreign Legion, the Sheikh's army & the Sheikh himself. Hub's Badass Boast is actually the page quote for the trope to boot.
  • Advertisement:
  • Badass Boast: From Hub, as he's choking a teenager.
    "I'm Hub McCann. I've fought in two World Wars and countless smaller ones on three continents. I led thousands of men into battle with everything from horses and swords to artillery and tanks. I've seen the headwaters of the Nile, and tribes of natives no white man had ever seen before. I've won and lost a dozen fortunes, KILLED MANY MEN and loved only one woman with a passion a FLEA like you could never begin to understand. That's who I am. NOW, GO HOME, BOY!"
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Strangely, the quote from the Karma Houdini entry below is the page quote for this trope, even though the example is closer to Zigzagged. But in the end, it's technically Averted. Hub gets his girl, the Sheik becomes very wealthy due to profits from oil, and is apparently still living large at the end of the film... but as Hub's Friendly Enemy, if the alternate ending is to be taken as canon. So the bad guy didn't so much as win as he did get a separate Happily Ever After, leaving the whole situation as a draw.
  • Bank Robbery: Implied by Stan to be how the uncles got their money. A series of deleted scenes gave further hints that the uncles may have been a set of notorious bandits who robbed banks while wearing Santa suits with fake beards to mask their identities.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Jasmine was an old lazy lioness who didn't even bother to attack Hub even though he planned on shooting her for sport. But was really grouchy and didn't like Hub's relatives. However because Walter fed and took care of her, she treated him with near kitten like affection. She eventually died trying to protect Walter from Stan. Hub and Garth also count, because they only gave a damn about Walter for the very same reason.
  • Beef Bandage: After Hub beats up some thugs, he gives them some meat to do this with.
  • Betrayal by Inaction: When Mae brings Stan to the McCann farm in an effort to try and turn Walter against Garth and Hub and find their money, Stan takes him off for a "man-to-man talk". Mae just turns away while Stan takes her son behind the barn and tries to beat information out of him. A later conversation indicates she was aware of his abusive tendencies already but tells Walter she has no choice but to marry him. This is finally the last straw for Walter and he decides to leave his mother for good.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Hub to Garth in their youth. In their final years, Garth inverts this from time to time.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The two uncles die after the kid grows up and moves out on his own. But dammit if they don't go out in the coolest way possible.
  • Black Humor: The uncles' death. This also doubles as a Funny Moment, once we see the airplane embedded in the barn...upside-down.
  • Bookends: The beginning and the end of the movie are set in the present, the rest some decades previous.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The lead-in to the bar fight scene. Hub might be old, but he's a good twice your size, and doesn't look like he's particularly interested in sharing his barbecue, or amused by your hoodlum antics. Do you really want to pick a fight with him?
  • Call to Agriculture: Invoked. Garth wants himself and Hub to tend a small garden because, according to him, it's just something that retired people do.
  • Captain Ersatz: The comics Walter draws in the end are obviously inspired by Calvin and Hobbes, though it might be a little cloudy since they were drawn in Real Life by Berke Breathed.
  • Character Filibuster: Without the stigma. Uncle Hub's "What every boy needs to know about being a man" speech. Since such matters have a tendency to be seen as subjective, it's mostly just alluded to.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Hub and Garth shooting at the salesmen. Taken even further in a deleted scene: Walter catches Garth mailing requests for companies to send salesmen to the house. Garth explains that Hub needs something to keep himself occupied. Let that sink in. He was requesting that salesmen come to the house just so he and Hub could shoot at them.
  • Cool Old Guy: Both uncles, but especially Hub.
  • Consummate Liar: Mae so much. Over the course of the film, Walter figures this out the hard way. It reaches a point where he leaves her after discovering that her boyfriend will be staying with them after said boyfriend attacked Walter.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: The uncles allow Walter to stick around mainly to annoy their gold-digging relatives. Uncle Garth gives similar approval to Walter's suggestion that they find out what traveling solicitors are selling before shooting at them.
  • Cool Car: Subverted. Garth and Hub drive a rusty old truck.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Stan vs. Jasmine the Lion. Had she not got that fatal heart attack, he likely wouldn't have gotten out of it alive. Still, he gets a really nasty mauling.
  • Death by Childbirth: Jasmine (the princess). The baby died with her.
  • Death Seeker: Subtle, but it becomes apparent that Uncle Hub is seeking death.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Hub and Garth eventually warm up to Walter and legally adopt him.
  • Delinquents: A handful get their backsides handed to them by the Retired Badass.
  • Diner Brawl: The incident with the aforementioned delinquents.
  • Distant Finale
  • Do Wrong, Right: The delinquent diner brawl includes Hub correcting their knife-fighting technique.
  • Dual Wielding: The Sheikh.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: A couple times. With shotguns, as it should be.
  • Eyepatch of Power: The Sheikh.
  • Evil Uncle: Briefly implied, subverted.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Squared. The film is told from Walter's point of view as an adult looking back, and Garth narrates the flashbacks to their adventures in the same way.
  • Friendly Enemy: We find out at the end of the movie that the Sheikh and Hub become this.
  • Foil: Jasmine the Lion serves as this to Mae. Jasmine dies protecting Walter from Stan, whereas Mae failed to protect the boy. Jasmine is loyal to her loved ones, whereas Mae shows little loyalty to or concern for her son.
  • Framing Device: Walter's story about his uncles. Garth tells stories about his adventures with Hub as a story-within-a-story.
  • Glory Days
  • Great Way to Go: "Going out with your boots on."
  • Groin Attack: Defend yourself!
  • Hero of Another Story: The Sheikh may have been one: his grandson tells an older Walter that he was raised on stories of his (the Sheikh's) youth, much like Walter was with Hub and Garth.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jasmine the Lion, in her Heartwarming Moment. Poor thing had too much excitement.
  • Ironic Echo: Written, not verbal: When Walter is being driven up to his uncles' house he reads a sign warning "Turn Back Now" which is the uncles' warning to trespassers. When he's being driven away towards the end of the film he looks back and sees the sign again, just before begging his mother to let him stay.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Though Hub and Garth are rather standoffish to Walter at first, they're never cruel to him. They're mostly sick of relatives always trying to grab their money, which is exactly what Walter's mother intended. They eventually warm up to him and even take on full custody of him from his greedy and neglectful mother after she showed her intention to still marry Stan, a man who attacked Walter.
  • Karma Houdini: The Sheikh. A lampshade is hung on this by Walter:
    Walter: What?! The bad guy gets filthy rich? What the heck kind of story ends that way?
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: After Jasmine dies attacking Stan, Hub and Garth while checking his wounds and waiting for the ambulance start poking and prodding him with the butt of their shotguns. Judging by his groaning, they were hitting his wounded areas. Even after he's wrapped up, they still threaten him and Hub cracks his nose.
  • Mama Bear: Not Walter's actual mother, but Jasmine the lion, in the above mentioned Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: The Sheikh of course.
  • Mugging the Monster: Those teenagers really should learn to respect their elders.
  • Never Wake Up a Sleepwalker: Garth says this to Walter when Hub is sleepwalking, warning that, "last time I tried to wake him he nearly tore my head off."
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Jasmine the lion.
  • Oh, Crap!: Stan, when he realizes that one of the world's fiercest predators is charging at him. Nasty mauling ensues.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Michael Caine actually manages to hold a passable rendering of a Southern American drawl for most of the film. But there are moments his natural Cockney shows through.
  • Papa Wolf: Hub and Garth become this to Walter. Hub even tells Stan he's lucky the lion attacked him instead of them.
  • Parental Abandonment: Walter's mother abandons him in pretty much every way possible. First with his uncles, then to a man she knows is likely to interrogate and beat him. He ultimately begs her to leave forever, and this time she does so for his own good.
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: After Hub collapses, Garth and Walter take him to the hospital. A while later he wakes up and comes storming out of his room, demanding to know who put him there. After he leaves, his visiting family mistakes him for being dead.
  • Playing Gertrude: A curious case - even though Jasmine the Lion is said to be old, Taureg, who "played" her, was actually a young lioness less than two years old.
  • Press-Ganged: Played for Laughs: The two uncles were drinking with some sailors, passed out, and woke up on a ship out to sea.
  • Quirky Household
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Played with. The uncles are "real men" because they've fought through lots of difficult situations for something that they love and believe in. The fact that they might have killed some people along the way is not the main point. The movie also shows the kind of issues with retirement that men typically portrayed in this fashion would have to deal with once they got older.
  • Retired Badass: The entire point of Hub and Garth.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Walter pulls this when Mae reveals that her boyfriend, who beat him for the money's location, will be staying with them while he recovers from his injuries.
  • Sequential Artist: Walter.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Especially for chasing off traveling salesmen.
    • The idea that shotguns are exclusively short-range weapons is pretty much blown out of the water too.
  • Sibling Team: Hub and Garth
  • Sleepwalking: Uncle Hub has a bad case of Hollywood Sleepwalking involving him reliving his adventures.
  • Storming the Castle: Hub and Garth do this to rescue Jasmine (the woman, not the lion).
  • Tempting Fate: In the flashbacks, Hub and Garth arrive in France in 1914, but Hub convinces Garth that they'll tour the country "One step ahead of the Germans." It almost works too, but see Press-Ganged entry above.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: The 14-year-old Walter is played by Haley Joel Osment, while Josh Lucas portrays the 31-year-old Walter in the opening and ending scenes.
  • There Are No Therapists: Well, there are, but in The '50s, going to the head shrinker simply wasn't done. People suffering from depression dealt with it privately — by drinking, or shooting things.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Just about everything said by Stan and Walter's mother is untrustworthy. And while it's played for laughs the first time, Hub and Garth's stories may not be completely true. Except at the end, Walter finds out that they probably are.
  • Vagabond Buddies: Garth and Hub in their younger days.
  • Wealthy Yacht Owner: Parodied at the end when Walter and the Shiekh's grandson are laughing at the large yacht that one salesman sold Hub and Garth, and is floating on their tiny pond.
    Sheikh's Grandson: I see they spent my grandfather's money wisely.
  • Wicked Stepfather: Not quite, but the man Walter's mother brings with her near the end of the film is definitely headed in that direction.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Shiekh evidently viewed Hub as one.
  • You Will Be Spared: Hub and the Sheikh have a battle to the death. Disarmed, the Sheikh hides his head in fear, knowing that he has no right to beg for mercy. But Hub lets him live, because then he owes him.


Example of: