Grade: B
Year: 2003
Director: Andrew Davis
Writer: Louis Sachar
Genre: Fantasy
Rated: PG
By Scott Spicciati

Walt Disney’s “Holes” has been dubbed a family movie, although this bizarre tale of fantasy stretches the limits of most family films. It’s simple, yet so unique you can’t help but be fascinated, even if it’s just in a mediocre way.

You’ll immediately recognize the talented cast of old-timers as well as some new blood playing the central characters. Disney Channel’s Shia LaBeouf from “Even Stevens” is Stanley Yelnats IV, a good kid who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is because of this supposed family curse that Stanley finds himself court-ordered to serve time at Camp Green Lake, a small community of bunkhouses surrounded by vast desert.

The Yelnatses (Stanley spelled backward, hence the name given to all the males) have a long history that goes back many generations. We meet his father (Henry Winkler), an unsuccessful inventor who has been trying to find a cure to foot odor, his mother, whose only purpose in the film is to look depressed, and his grandfather (Nathan Davis), the only optimistic member of the family. They live in a small apartment, grandpa and all, which begs for a happy ending.

When Stanley arrives at Camp Greenlake, he meets Mr. Sir (Jon Voight), the hot-tempered supervisor and rules enforcer, and Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson), the man responsible for the camp’s liability issues. They work under the Warden (Sigourney Weaver), a rough but understanding woman who bosses Sir and Pendanski around so much one can only wonder why they still work for her.

After meeting the staff, it is only appropriate to meet the fellow campers, or shall I say, fellow inmates. The delinquents he soon befriends each have their own nickname to describe themselves. We have Armpit (Byron Cotton), X-Ray (Brenden Jefferson), Magnet (Miguel Castro), Zigzag (Max Kasch), and many others.

Most of the story takes place under the scorching sun at Camp Greenlake, where the kids dig holes all day long. Each hole is five feet deep and five feet wide. They are told this practice builds character, but we of course suspect another motive, especially when finding something “special” earns that digger the rest of the day off.

The story turns when Zero (Khleo Thomas) runs away and faces the harsh desert on his own with no food or water. Stanley eventually finds him; they become best friends and stumble upon the hidden secret of Camp Greenlake. Zero also has something to confess, and the fate of their friendship will rest in Stanley’s judgment.

Cinematographer Stephen St. John adds a certain flare to the main location of the film. The desert seems to stretch past the horizon with no more than 10 feet in any direction without a hole dug by a young kid looking to build character.

The film features fictitious yellow-spotted lizards, which are nothing more than poorly done computer animations from afar, and Australian Bearded Dragons painted yellow from up-close. As a proud owner of a Bearded Dragon, I appreciated the attempt to make these cool yet tame reptiles look fearsome. In the movie, the lizards have a nasty bite and inject venom powerful enough to kill humans. Unfortunately, mine only opens her mouth to eat.

We quickly tire of watching the boys dig holes in the middle of the desert, so our attention is diverted to an intercutting story of a woman shunned for her attraction to a black peasant. I cannot tell you anymore about this story, because its resolution ties into the main plot and it all comes together in the end.

Based off some book I’ve never heard of, “Holes” is a wholesome movie your kids will enjoy. Most adults will be satisfied but won’t find the adventure too exciting. I don’t love the film, but I like it, and the twisted intertwining plots are enough for me to recommend the film.

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