There are really no two things that go together better than the prison and children's film genres. One would normally attribute such a revelation to studio executives, but this film's emergence owes its life to Louis Sachar, who wrote the book upon which the film is based.
I was reminded of "Anger Management" while watching the beginning of this film. Filmmakers are so lazy these days that they assume the audience won't care if the premise of the film isn't believable. In the case of "Anger Management," an episode on a plane that leads to Adam Sandler's legal troubles is patently ridiculous. In "Holes," Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf) gets tossed into Camp Greenlake after being convicted of stealing a pair of shoes. Maybe it's understandable that writers and filmmakers treat our legal system like a set of coincidences out of "Sesame Street," but it's still stupid and lazy. Somebody could have come up with a reasonably believable premise for Stanley, just like somebody could have come up with one for Sandler, but so many Hollywood writers equate stupid with funny that they don't think it matters.
Camp Greenlake is in the desert and run by Warden Walker (Sigourney Weaver), Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) and Mr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson). They make the kids dig holes all day. Though they say digging holes builds character, the real reason has something to do with a story from the past that runs parallel to this one, about an outlaw known as "Kissin' Kate" Barlow. Of course, we all know that parallel stories and kids' brains go really well together too.
As most readers know, I always get a little excited by a movie starring Jon Voight, who overacts like somebody messed up his Viagra prescription. Unfortunately, Weaver and Nelson join him. Much like the shoddy premise, overacting is an actor's lazy way out, given that it's so much easier than conveying a character with subtlety or depth. Besides, kids won't care.
Ultimately, the film takes way too long to answer a multitude of questions. Director Andrew ("The Fugitive") Davis serves "Holes" up at a hefty 111 minutes. Any kids' film over 90 minutes is just too long. There's nothing like trying to watch a movie with an audience full of kids who won't sit still. Certainly the film is aptly named. Not only are there a lot of holes in the film, but in the premise, the plot and the director's head as well.
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