Toon Talk: Holes
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Based on the award-winning book by Louis Sachar that rivals that wizard kid from Hogwarts in popularity amongst the Scholastic Books set, Holes makes the jump from the printed page to the big screen with a twisty script, adapted by Sachar himself, and an appropriately motley cast of dust-encrusted actors. Unfortunately the film is wedged beneath the club-footed direction of Andrew Davis, best known for such laborious action fests as Steven Seagals Under Siege and Harrison Fords over-rated The Fugitive.
Packed with enough flashbacking subplots to make a soap opera dizzy, Holes centers on the fresh-faced, palindrome-monikered Stanley Yelnats IV (Even Stevens Shia LaBeouf, a slimmed-down version of the books tubbier protagonist), who sifts aimlessly through life with his quirky family a bit too quirky, I might add, with dad Henry Winklers nutty professor obsession, eliminating foot odor, cluttering and stinking up their already crowded apartment. You see, young Stanley shares not only the same name as his familial predecessors, but also the burden of a century old curse, placed on their pig-thieving great-great grandfather by a spooky gypsy woman (Eartha Kitt).
Said curse has presently placed Stanley in the wrong place at the wrong time, namely in the possession of a stolen pair of famous sneakers, which leads him to an 18 month sentence at the Camp Green Lake Juvenile Correctional Facility, a work camp for boys in the Texas wastelands that hasnt seen anything green, let alone an actual lake, for some time. Under the supervision of the grizzled overseer Mr. Sir (Jon Voight, who is apparently going insane, greedily chomping on the sun-bleached scenery with the same wild-eyed abandon as he does a fistful of sunflower seeds), Stanley joins the other crusty juvies (all coined with nicknames such as Armpit, Squid and Barf Bag whatever happened to nice nicknames like Encyclopedia Brown?) in their daily task: namely, dig one hole a day, every day, five feet wide by five feet deep.
Ostensibly intended to build character for these hardened criminals (who all are apparently incarcerated for such innocuous crimes as puppy stealing, the better to sympathize with in this PGed yarn), the hole digging is more then just busy work: the aloof Warden Walker (a typically steely performance from professional ice queen Sigourney Weaver) has her own hidden agenda to go along with her rattlesnake venom finger nail polish, a vendetta that ties into the doomed love affair, decades earlier in the wilder West, between a lonely white schoolmarm (Patricia Arquette) and a black onion farmer (Dule Hill), the consequences of which somehow ties into the family history of our hero Stanley himself, as well as his Sideshow Bob-doed sidekick Zero (played by another natural young acting find, Khleo Thomas). (The quiet scenes where Stanley teaches Zero how to read, although telegraphed earlier, are the high points of the film.)