Tue, Jan 16, 2018 07:37 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
2003-04-23 life & times
Davis, Sachar team up well in excellent new film, Holes
Cletus Turner

It is not often that I go to a kids movie and come out with a surprised look on my face. When I went to see Holes, I found myself in shock. Not only did I like the film, but also the adults that went in with me were amazed to like it, too.

Louis Sachar wrote Holes, the novel for young adults, and the film is a faithful adaptation of the novel. The surprising thing is that the adults were kept just as entertained as the kids.

Holes is the story of Stanley Yelnats, played by Shia LaBeouf. Yes, that is what is commonly referred to as a palindrome, meaning reading the name backwards will give you the same name. In this case, the young Stanley is number four in a line of Stanleys. Stanley III is a scientist working on a cure for foot oder. Sadly, young Stanley is walking along one day when a pair of shoes hits him over the head. He picks up the shoes, and is arrested for theft. The shoes had been donated to a homeless shelter by baseball's fastest man, Clyde "Sweetfeet" Livingston, played by Rick Fox. Stanley is sentenced to 18 months at a juvenile delinquent camp called Green Lake. The trick is, the lake is neither green nor is it a lake. Well, it used to be, but the lake dried up.

At the camp, we meet the three adults running the camp. Mr. Sir, an ex-law enforcement officer, is played to perfection by Jon Voight. I have seen Voight play a villain before, but never with such veracity. In Anaconda, Voight was the epitome of evil. Here, there is no REAL evil. Although Mr. Sir is mean, he has a loopy, nutty and downright zany side that tones him down. Dr. Pendanski, who is played by Tim Blake Nelson from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, is the perfect nut. He is the camp counselor and spouts pearls of wisdom that are so cliche, you can't help but laugh. The kids at the camp call him "mom." The warden Walker is played by Sigourney Weaver. The warden is the descendent of the man who owned the lake and half the town that existed back in the 1800's. When the lake dried up, the man lost his money and the town died.

Kids who go by the nicknames Armpit, Zig-Zag and X-ray seem to have it out for Stanley. Only the quiet Zero, played by Khleo Thomas, seems to like Stanley. Slowly, we learn that Zero can't read and Stanley eventually teaches him.

We also learn about the history of Green Lake and how a woman named Kate Barlow, played by Patricia Arquette, fell in love with an African-American man named Sam. When the rich lake owner, Trout Walker, is rebuffed by Kate, he proceeds to have Sam killed. Because of Sam's death and the sheriff's refusal to help, Kate kills the sheriff and gives him the kiss he had requested earlier. She then starts on a crime spree. Anyone she kills, she kisses and leaves lipstick marks. It just so happens that she had stolen the life fortune of, you guessed it, Stanley Yelnats, young Stan's great grandfather.

Running throughout the movie is a curse that had been placed on the Yelnats family by a gypsy woman named Madame Zeroni, played by Eartha Kitt. It seems Elya Yelnats, who then lived in Latvia, had fallen in love with a neighbor woman and Madame Zeroni had explained to him how to get her. The only request she had for this service was to carry her up the hill to a special spring so that she could get stronger. When the young woman chose another, Elya decided to go to America and forgot to fulfill his promise to carry the gypsy woman up the hill. Because he forgot, the family was cursed forever.

Director Andrew Davis and screenplay writer Louis Sachar worked well together. The teens in the film were taken seriously. The bully tactics that were used on Stanley when he first arrived at Camp Green Lake were ones used by bullies everywhere. Physically, Stanley was not on par with everyone else. Zero, who is believed to be unintelligent, is shown as a young boy who has been abandoned by his family and thus, not unintelligent, just uneducated. Stanley and Zero's relationship is central to the story and later in the film, we discover a new, surprising twist. We also see the adults as a little silly and funny, just as kids see us.

Overall, the story is very good. It is multi-layered and keeps the audience's interest. It reminds me of the old Disney movies like Child of Glass which captivated my young adulthood. The acting is superb and the directing certainly made the film even more enjoyable. Teens and parents alike will find themselves captivated by this excellent film.

4 1/2 suns

Anger Management surprised everyone by retaining the top spot last weekend. Earning $26.5 million in its second weekend, the film has now grossed $80.3 million in 10 days.

The new Disney drama Holes exceeded industry expectations and garnered $17.1 million in its premiere weekend. The film was able to take advantage of a holiday weekend with no real competition in its main market-kids. As well, it had a fan base from readers of the book by the same name.

Malibu's Most Wanted surprised insiders as well, debuting with $13.1 million. The Jamie Kennedy flick appealed mostly to teens and young adults and was budgeted for $15 million.

Bulletproof Monk was a surprising fourth. The Chow Yun-Fat/Seann William Scott was weaker than it should have been, but with Anger and Malibu doing well, it was inevitable. The film garnered $8.6 million, well below its expected $13 million.

Fifth place went to Phone Booth. The Colin Farrell sniper thriller garnered $5.7 million for an overall total of $35.1 million.

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