Reviewed by: Megan Basham
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Sigourney Weaver, Patricia Arquette, John Voigt, Khleo Thomas, Tim Blake Nelson | Directed by: Andrew Davis | Produced by: Lowell D. Blank, Andrew Davis, Cary Granat, Mike Medavoy, Teresa Tucker-Davies | Written by: Brent Hanley, Louis Sachar | Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
T hough not terribly offensive, frustrated moms and dads may unfortunately find that the author who wrote an inventive, riveting children’s book isn’t necessarily the best person to write a screenplay. Clocking in at just under two hours (thought it’ll feel more like two and a half), the literary “Holes” is likely to leave viewers under eight antsy and, as was the case in the preview I attended, screaming for something more diverting.
The story revolves around teenager Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf), a boy whose family curse lands him in a juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn’t commit. Even worse, the camp is run by a group of suspicious characters who require the boys to spend each day digging a hole five feet deep and five feet wide in the hardened ground of a dried-up Texas lake. At first, Stanley believes the hole-digging is intended to build character, but as the days pass at Camp Green Lake, he and the rest of the rag-tag group of inmates begin to suspect they’re actually digging for another sinister purpose.
Sometimes, loyalty to the novel can be too much for one movie to handle. This is really too bad as the cast of young actors does a fantastic job. LaBeouf in particular, who some kids may know from the Disney television show “Even Stevens,” turns in a performance many adult actors would envy. And with a supporting cast of Jon Voigt, Sigourney Weaver, Tim Blake Nelson, and Patricia Arquette, it would seem like this film should be a sure-fire hit. However, so many idiosyncrasies that had plenty of time to become authentic in the novel, feel forced and disjointed in the film. As Stanley reflects back on the history of his family curse, children who can’t yet follow a flashback structure may become confused. Focusing on the primary storyline alone would have made “Holes” much more accessible to the Mouse House’s target audience.
As to the moral content, a few scenes might make parents hesitate, or at least have a discussion with their kids. First off is the very nature of the family curse. Apparently, many generations ago in the Yelnats family homeland (which is never identified), great-great-great-great grandfather Yelnats betrayed a fortune-teller he had enlisted for help in matters of love. The curse is then lifted when Stanley saves the life of a descendant of the fortune teller. Obviously, if you do go see it, you may want to explain to your youngsters what the Bible says about the occult and that consulting spiritualists is a sin. Also, when the boys finally revolt against the camp directors, things get a bit a violent as one kid hits an adult in the face with a shovel. Attack grownups when they’re being mean—definitely not a message we want our kids to get.
So if you’re totally in need of an afternoon where the silver screen entertains the kiddies for a couple of hours, consider taking them to “Piglet’s Big Movie” again. They may have already seen it, but at least they’ll know what’s going on.