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Toon Talk - From the Other Side: Hoot
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(c) New Line Cinema

Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman, late of the Jack and Bobby TV show) is the new kid in town, recently relocated to the balmy town of Coconut Grove, Florida. It doesn’t take long for him to get into trouble with the local bully (Eric Phillips), but it is another boy who peaks his curiosity, a flaxen-haired wild child he sees running, barefoot and breathlessly, through the neighborhood.

Like a modern Encyclopedia Brown, Roy tracks down the mystery boy, known only by the nickname “Mullet Fingers? (played by Cody Linley, a young World’s Greatest Athlete-era Jan Michael Vincent look-alike), along with his pushy stepsister Beatrice (Brie Larson), and soon becomes involved himself in their plan to stop the encroaching construction of a chain restaurant (“Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House?) on a site that is home to an endangered (yet adorable) breed of borrowing owls.

Their sabotage attempts put them at odds with the short-tempered foreman/corporate lackey Curly (O Brother, Where Art Thou?’s Tim Blake Nelson) as well as the law, represented by the overly-earnest Officer Delinko (Luke Wilson, underplaying nicely this stock Barney Fife role to amusing effect). Tensions come to a head when the true villain of the piece, Mr. Muckle of “Mother Paula? HQ (overplayed to Snidely Whiplash proportions by Clark Gregg), shows up with a plan to fast-track the ground-breaking -- by plowing over the burrows of the cute little owls.

Of course, there are no surprises as to how this all wraps up, but the preceding journey is a pleasant enough one, buoyed along by a new set of songs by Mr. Margaritaville himself, Jimmy Buffett (who co-produced the film, as well as co-starring as a sympathetic teacher).

(c) New Line Cinema

In the end, Hoot is the type of film that doesn’t stand up too well to close scrutiny; plot inconsistencies abound, such as the lack of a strong motivation on Roy’s part from the outset (unless you do some covert reading between the lines) and lapses in logic (i.e., when “Mullet Fingers? releases a bagful of snakes into the area to scare away some guard dogs, obliviously not taking into account what said snakes may do to said owls). The film also bogs down whenever Roy’s ineffectual parents (played by Neil Flynn and Kiersten Warren) appear for some shallow pep talks.

To paraphrase, “Owl’s well that ends well …? for nevertheless, as with their previous films, Walden Media does deliver a solid piece of family fare with Hoot … a “hoot?, if you will, suitable for the whole family.

Toon Talk Rating: B-

In this ‘Toon Talk’ feature, I will briefly highlight a recommended film or DVD, outside of the Disney universe, of similar interest to the main subject.

Friendly Freedom Finders

An uplifting story of a boy and his killer whale, Free Willy (1993, Warner) was a popular hit that spawned two sequels and dozens of late night talk show punchlines. A streetwise kid (Jason James Richter) befriends Willy, an ailing whale kept pinned up at a rundown water park; when the very bad men who run the place set out to kill the whale, it is up to his new human friend to undertake the formidable task of returning Willy to his ocean home.

Directed by Simon Wincer and starring Michael Madsen (cast against type), Lori Petty and Keiko the Whale as Willy, whose similar real-life plight was brought to public attention by this film. DVD available from Warner Home Video.

Coming Soon in Toon Talk:

  • Its soccer time in the next Touchstone sports flick, Goal! The Dream Begins (May 12).
  • An all-star cast voices a collection of suburban animals that go Over the Hedge in the latest from DreamWorks Animation (May 19).
  • The phenomenally successful Disney Channel movie High School Musical makes its Disney DVD debut on May 23.

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-- Kirby C. Holt
-- Logos by William C. Searcy, Magic Bear Graphics, http://www.cafepress.com/MagicBear

Kirby is a lifelong Disney fan and film buff. He is also an avid list maker and chronic ellipsis user ...

Took Talk: Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt is posted whenever there's something new to review.

The opinions expressed by our Kirby C. Holt, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted May 5, 2006

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