Holes (2003): What We Have Here…

I was originally going to title this piece ‘Shawshank Redemption for Kids’ But it’s not really Shawshank Redemption for kids, even though it’s damn close. The theme of the two films are very similar and you get the same sense of satisfaction when you have finished watching the film.

But if I were to be really honest, the film is closer to a juvenile version of Cool Hand Luke without Strother Martin’s character drawling, ” What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Instead we have Sigourney Weaver‘s, “Excuse me??” Shia LaBeoff is of course the Paul Newman of this story and that is where any similarity to ‘Luke’ ends. Where Newman’s Luke was a good ole’ boy who didn’t mind breaking the law in order to have a good time, LaBeoff’s Stanley aka Caveman, is a true innocent.

Holes is great little entertainment piece that doesn’t stretch too far into character development territory, although it does try to give us a ‘back story’ and plot intertwining that only just about works.

It has a good pedigree as far as cast lists go. Henry Winkler, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette are all part of the capable actors who populate this film. Eartha Kitt has a splendid cameo as Madame Zeroni the fortune teller who curses the Yelnats when an ancestor breaks a promise that he made to her.

The film starts with Stanley (LaBeoff) walking home and getting hit in the head with a pair of stolen baseball shoes. This occurance knocks Stanley out cold, the shoes were thrown off of an overpass. He is arrested for stealing the shoes and after being found guilty, is offered the choice of jail or Camp Green Lake (a juvenile chain gang operation run by Warden Walker).

Stanley and his whole family blame this recent turn of events on the Yelnats family curse.

Stanley goes through the usual drill when he arrives at Camp Green Lake, he manages to piss off everyone he meets and is, of course, bullied because he is the new boy. The only lad who doesn’t bully or ostracise Stanley is Zero (Khleo Thomas) who, we find out later in the film, was the person who stole the shoes that Stanley was arrested for stealing.

All the inmates at Camp Green Lake are made to dig holes in the dry lake bed that the camp has been named after. We learn of the story behind the lake drying up. We also learn more about the ‘kissing bandit’ (Arquette).

The back story helps to tie up the connection between the Yelnets family curse and the dry lake bed. Mister Sir (Jon Voight), Warden Walker’s (Weaver) ‘foreman’ is a bully of the finest order. His second in command is Dr Pedanski (Tim Blake Nelson) a ‘make-believe’ doctor who also likes bullying the boys.

After Pedanski insults Zero, Zero hits him in the face with a shovel and escapes. He heads across the barren lake bed out into an area that has no water or shade. Stanley takes out after him.

This film is notable because it is Labeoff’s first film (the opening credits say, ‘Introducing’ in front of his name) and it gives us a chance to see Shia in his pre-Transformers days.

Considering that this is a film that has been exclusively targeted for children, it is still entertaining. Yes the villains are all ‘cartoon’ type villains (you know, so stupid that it beggars belief that they are not all in prison) all that is missing is the twirling of the pencil thin moustache.

But the film works in spite of the two dimensional characterisation of all the characters and it’s paper thin plot as well as it’s comparison (or some would say homage?) to other films.

At the end of the film, you feel that justice has been served. You also feel a sense of relief that those ‘poisonous’ lizards don’t really exist in real life. You might also feel like checking out the book by Louis Sachar that the film is adapted from.

A final verdict of a one bagger film. One bag of popcorn should see you through this ‘feel good film.’

About Michael Knox-Smith

World traveler, writer, actor, vlogger, blogger, journalist. Cinephile who reviews films, television, YouTube shows, Books and interviews professionals in the industry. Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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