By Shawn McKenzie 04/18/2003
I am not much of a book reader. I know, I know, I have a Books section on this site, but honestly, it has been years since I have read a fictional novel. It’s been even longer since I’ve read a fictional novel geared towards kids. I grew up in the era of Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, so I may have lost touch. While the king of kids’ books today is Harry Potter, apparently there is also a hit book out there called Holes. I had never heard of it until I saw the movie. In fact, based on the trailers, I thought it was supposed to be a rip-off of The Goonies. When I did see it, I thought it was a little too deep and unusual to possibly appeal to kids. I guess I was wrong.
The movie is based on the 1998 Newbery Award-winning book of the same name written by Louis Sachar. Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia LaBeouf) has to live with an ancient family curse of bad luck. Since an ancestor of his accidentally screwed over a gypsy woman named Madame Zeroni (Eartha Kitt), and that gypsy in turn cursed all future generations of Yelnats men, Stanley is always running into unintentional trouble. The latest case of this horrible bad luck is his unfair sentence to months of detention at Camp Green Lake for a crime he didn’t commit. He had been accused of stealing shoes from a charity event. To make matters worse, the shoes were a pair donated by Clyde “Sweet Feet” Livingston (Rick Fox), a famous track star. At the camp he meets several interesting characters. His campmates all go by nicknames. There is Squid (Jake M. Smith), Armpit (Byron Cotton), ZigZag (Max Kasch), Magnet (Miguel Castro), X-Ray (Brenden Jefferson), and Zero (Khleo Thomas.) They are required by the adults running the camp to dig one large hole a day. These adults include the Warden (Sigourney Weaver) and her henchmen Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) and Mr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson.) They claim that the hole-digging is a way in which the kids can build character, but they secretly have an ulterior motive. If the kids find anything “special,” they get the rest of the day off, something Stanley, who is eventually nicknamed Caveman, finds suspicious. Meanwhile, we see flashbacks of the origins of his curse. Kissin’ Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette), a woman who became a criminal after a tragic event involving a black man she loved named Sam (Dule Hill), robbed the first Stanley Yelnats (Allan Kolman.) All of the Yelnats after him have had bad luck as well, including Stanley II (Nathan Davis) and Stanley III (Henry Winkler), the latter of whom has had no luck trying to develop a product that will take the stink out of shoes. Stanley IV’s mom (Siobhan Fallon) stands by her men, but has become frustrated by their bad luck. Stanley and his campmates must work together to survive the camp and figure out a way to break the Yelnats family curse.
While I could follow the movie, I think I benefited from finding out the basic plotline before I went to the screening. I thought that it might be a little too trippy for kids to follow after I saw it. I found out that I might be wrong when I asked a kid later about the book. He said the book was easy to follow and it was his and all his friends’ favorite book. He didn’t see the screening, but if the book is anything like the movie, I may be either stupid or severely underestimating a kid’s ability to follow a movie.
Let’s talk about the stupid way they are marketing this movie. Doesn’t the trailer for this flick make it look like a kiddie action movie? While there is a little action, it is no Goonies. It’s a relatively slow moving film that concentrates on explaining the main character’s predicament throughout the movie, with periodic flashbacks to the stories of his ancestors. That’s fine, but why hype it up to be an action movie? Most fans of the book will know otherwise, and people who have never read the book might be disappointed with its lack of action. I guess that’s why I don’t make trailers.
The kids in this movie are all fine, but the adults in the present day scenes were all a little exaggerated. Voight was very over the top, Winkler was odd, and Nelson was confusing (was he nice or mean?) The acting of all the flashback adults was much better, if not necessarily spectacular.
I guess you’d have to be either a kid or a fan of the book in general to fully enjoy Holes. I thought it made an interesting story, but I bet I would have enjoyed the movie on a greater level if I had read the book. I guess it has a large young fan base, and that actually makes me proud of the younger generation. I know
that if this book had been around when I was a kid, it would have gone over my head, so I have to give credit to the kids today for understanding it better than I would. Now…when they adapt Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing for the big screen, it will be on my level!
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