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Friday, March 27, 2015

Holes (2003)

A while back I wrote that I was teaching Holes in my sixth grade class. All the while they were clamoring to see the film version, even though many of them had already seen it. So yesterday and today I watched it with them--three times, one for each class.

Actually I had already seen it, when it opened in 2003. Directed by Andrew Davis and with a sterling cast, I thought it was an underrated little gem back then, and I still do, as it is a mostly faithful adaptation of the book and at times is rather moving, and has a lot to say about loyalty and friendship.

To recap, Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf) is falsely accused of stealing a valuable pair of baseball cleats. He is sent to a camp in the middle of the Texas desert, where every day he and the other boys are expected to dig a hole, for character building, they are told. The overseer is an odd duck that wants to be called Mr. Sir (a very funny Jon Voight), and a counselor who is alternately nice and nasty (Tim Blake Nelson). The whole thing is run by Sigourney Weaver, but of course she's not having them dig holes for nothing--there's buried treasure out there.

Stanley learns a lot about himself as he tries to get along, and makes friends with Zero (Khleo Thomas), who doesn't talk much and just digs holes. They end up in grand adventure, where they climb a mountain shaped like a thumb learn about the healing power of onions. Oh, and did I mention there are flashbacks to Latvia and the Wild West, with Patricia Arquette as a bandit called Kissin' Kate Barlow?

The script was adapted by the author, Louis Suchar, and it's faithful but makes changes that I think help, such as giving more time to Stanley's parents. The ending is very satisfying. And while LaBeouf may be making a spectacle of himself these days, it's easy to see what attracted moviemakers about him in the first place, as he's very good here.

Holes is a terrific film all around, especially for teens and the adults who love them.

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