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Hoot Review

By Shawn McKenzie 05/07/2006

Walden Media has been very successful with several adaptations of award-winning children’s literature, but except for last year’s blockbuster The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, their other offerings have been just okay, though not overall entertaining.  Hoot is unfortunately one of those movies.

Fourteen-year-old Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman) has lived in ten different towns and has been enrolled in six different schools, so he is used to moving around a lot.  The reason why is because his dad Don (Neil Flynn, the Janitor from NBC’s “Scrubs”) works for the justice department, so he has to move with him and his mother (Kiersten Warren) all around the country.  Every time he moves, he has to make new friends…but he also acquires new enemies.  He was living in Montana, but his family packed up and moved to the Gulf Coast town of Coconut Grove, Florida.  He has to trade in his cowboy boots for flip-flops, or he will have to live with being called “cow girl” by the other kids.  While on the school bus, the school bully, Dana Matherson (Eric Phillips), assaults him and holds up against the bus window.  While being squished up against that window, he sees a mysterious boy without any shoes on running alongside the bus.  Once Roy gets to school, he meets a few of the other students at Trace Middle School.  He meets Garrett (Dean Collins), who quickly becomes his first friend, but he also meets soccer jock Beatrice Leep (Brie Larson), a girl nicknamed “The Bear” who intimidates all of the other kids in school…including Dana.  Aside from his fellow students, he meets his easygoing marine biology teacher named Mr. Ryan (Jimmy Buffett), who seems to have no problem with his students constantly leaving class.  Later, Roy tries following the mysterious boy on his bike when he almost runs over Beatrice.  She demands to know why Roy is so interested in the boy, and she wants him to cut it out as well.  It turns out that the boy is Napoleon Bridger Leep, a.k.a. Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley)…Beatrice’s stepbrother.  He is currently living in an abandoned houseboat after running away from home.  Mullet Fingers is on a mission to stop the construction of Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House, one of the country’s most popular chains (this location is supposed to be the 100th restaurant in the chain.)  The reason why he wants to stop the construction is because a family of burrowing owls lives on the site, and the construction would disturb their habitat.  He pulls a series of pranks to stop the construction, like pulling up the site’s survey stakes, putting alligators in the Port-a-Potties, and releasing snakes into the site to scare off the guard dogs.  The pranks have been a source of stress for construction foreman Curly Branitt (Tim Blake Nelson), who has been taking his orders from the chain’s regional manager Chuck Muckle (Clark Gregg.)  The executive doesn’t really care about Curly’s problems…he just wants to be there in time for the groundbreaking with Mayor Grandy (Robert Wagner) and Kimberly Nixon (Jessica Cauffiel) a.k.a. Mother Paula (his assistant who poses as the character.)  Aside from the aforementioned guard dogs, trained by a guy named Kalo (Robert Donner), Curly asks for local police Officer David Delinko (Luke Wilson) to watch the site and capture the prankster.  Unfortunately, Delinko is a bit of a bumbling idiot, so he falls asleep while watching the site…allowing Mullet Fingers to paint the windows of the officer’s squad car black.  This angers Delinko’s captain (John Archie), who makes him ride around in a vehicle that looks like a golf cart.  Once Beatrice realizes that Roy is no threat to Mullet Fingers, they all work together to stop the construction and save the owls.

There are many things to like about the film.  First, as a Parrothead, I loved the music.  Co-producer Buffett provided most of the music, including his laid-back cool version of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.”  He also does a decent job as an actor, but I’m glad he didn’t take on a larger part, because his slipshod teacher role could be annoying if it was expanded.  Second, I really think that kids will like the movie, if not the parents, and it might inspire them to take up environmental causes.  Finally, the goofy performances of Wilson and Nelson are funny, and they are some of the only laughs in the film.

The good things about it may also be some of its detriments.  If you aren’t a fan of Buffett, this movie may not be the one for you, though I don’t believe that his songs are any more intrusive than any other pop music soundtrack.  As far as the “message” of the movie…it isn’t subtle.  I’m not a big fan of preachy movies, and movies that try to preach to me about saving the environment turn me off (the only reason why the preachy The Day After Tomorrow was so good was because the special effects were so cool.)  The performances of Wilson and Nelson may have been funny, but they may have been overly cartoonish for a movie that can’t decide if it is an environmental drama or a comedy.

Co-producer/writer/director Wil Shriner is also an actor/comedian who is making his theatrical directorial debut with Hoot.  He is a longtime television sitcom director who also had his own talk show in 1987.  I think that his attempt to adapt Carl Hiaasen’s 2002 Newbery Honor award-winning young adult novel may have watered down the story (I don’t know…I haven’t read the book), because I can’t imagine that the original source material was this syrupy.  This movie may be one that the family may enjoy after the first viewing, but after that, they may not give a hoot.


Get the soundtrack featuring five new songs by Jimmy Buffett and songs by Maroon 5, G Love & Special Sauce, and more:

Get the 2002 Newbery Honor award-winning young adult novel by Carl Hiaasen:

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