So all children’s movies and books need not include a magical orphan or a super hero. Imagine that. And that’s exactly what’s so great about Andrew Davis’ Holes – imagination. Based on the best-selling children’s novel by Dave Dorfman, this is a quirky little film that’s geared towards young adults but is smart enough and entertaining enough for parents.
Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia LaBeouf) suffers from a long-running family curse. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all losers in their own time. And just as fate would have it, the youngest Stanley appears to be on the same road. After being convicted of stealing a pair of shoes destined for a charity auction, Stanley is sent to a camp for troubled youth in the middle of a desert. His bunkmates go by nicknames like Armpit, Zig-Zag, Zero, Squid and X-Ray. Everyday they must dig a hole exactly five feet deep and five feet in diameter. Why? They’re simply told that it builds character.
Indeed it does. A large chunk of the charm of Holes comes from the eccentric characters. Everyone has a distinct personality, yet the boys still come together as a collective group when one of their own is in trouble. The supporting cast includes Sigourney Weaver as the camp’s warden, Jon Voight and Tim Blake Nelson as her assistants and Henry Winkler as Stanley’s father, an inventor who has spent his entire life fighting to cure foot odour. Each character is strange in their own way but they’re not so odd that you can’t connect with them. Director Davis (The Fugitive) finds a nice balance.
There’s also a parallel back story to Holes that fills in the myth of the Yelnats curse. It would have been easy to give the plot’s puzzle away early on but thankfully things unravel in a way that’s logical without being predictable. Most everything involved in the plot is strange but it all fits together nicely. Some might argue a little too nicely but Holes is fun nonetheless.
The look of Holes reminds me of Three Kings, an equally eccentric piece of work. I guess I must be a fan of stark desert landscapes, dizzying sky shots and bleached colors. It all amounts to a look that is hot and leaves you grabbing for the Coke in the cup holder, wiping your brow and pondering a way to check your armpits without the person sitting next to you noticing.
Holes is a pleasant surprise in what has been an otherwise disappointing streak of mainstream fair. It just goes to show a family film that doesn’t talk down to its audience can work and appeal to all ages.