Please welcome our newest blogger Rachel. She will be reviewing a different movie every Monday, for Family Movie Night.
Recently LeBeouf has received bad publicity and the Transformers films didn’t help his acting credibility among critics and moviegoers; however, in Holes he does well as the kid with no luck. In fact, as legend goes his family has been cursed by a gypsy (played by the great Eartha Kitt) years before with generations of bad luck.This leads Stanley to be convicted of a crime and sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention facility in the middle of nowhere. Run by a woman named, The Warden (Sigourney Weaver), a man named Mr Sir (Jon Voight) and a camp counselor named Dr Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson), the sole purpose of the camp is to dig about 5 ft holes in the desert. When they arrive there are already hundreds of holes peppering the landscape. Why are they digging these holes? That is one of the mysteries of the film.
As they dig Stanley and the eclectic group of boys (including a quiet boy named Zero -Khleo Thomas) start to uncover clues about the history at Camp Greenlake, The Warden, and the holes. We even start to get a series of flashbacks from the 1850s involving a school teacher named Miss Kate and an African American onion salesman named Sam. Their relationship develops and of course it is not approved of in that day and age. This romantic drama becomes a compelling story on its own but also relates to Stanley’s journey in interesting ways.
There are a lot of great things about Holes which make it ideal for Family Movie Night. First, it is creative and inventive. In a world where all movies, especially family films, can feel like they are made from the same boring mold, here is a movie that takes some risks and still surprises with its unique storytelling and I still feel that way after seeing it many times.It is also special because it introduces important and weighty subjects to kids such as racism, prejudice, hate crimes and interracial relationships without it being too violent. This is helpful as it allows families to talk about these topics and for kids to ask questions but not be subjected to imagery which they are not prepared for. It is a good first step in these discussions which unfortunately we still need to have as racial intolerance is certainly still an issue that haunts our nation.
But that may make it sound like a real downer but it it’s not. Fortunately because of the flashback structure you get a lot of breaks between the Sam/Kate story and comedic moments between Stanley and the boys and the over-the-top villainy of Mr Sir and The Warden all lighten things up. We even get the great Henry Winkler as Stanley’s Dad in a few scenes. None of the humor is vulgar or unseemly and kids will get a kick out of it.
The acting is first rate with veterans like Weaver, Voigt and Nelson adding real credibility to their roles (and seemingly having a great time playing villains). All the boys are good but the story doesn’t rely on them like say Stephen Spielberg’s Hook does. Recent Oscar winner Patricia Arquette is Kate and Dule Hill from TV’s Psych is Sam and they have a believable chemistry in their scenes together and are both great.
The script builds really well to an exciting climax but it is not too intense for small kids because like I said it is mixed up with moments of humor and the flashbacks. I also like that the boys don’t need any help to solve the mystery and confront the camp leadership. It is their intellects that save the day and I appreciate when a children’s movie doesn’t talk down to children or assume they are stupid.
The cinematography by Stephen St John captures the desolate feeling of the desert with all the holes looking a bit like a groundhog sanctuary. In contrast, the flashback sequences when Camp Green Lake really was a green lake look lush and beautiful. The music by Joel McNeely is also strong.
When this first came out I remember calling everyone I knew and telling them ‘you’ve got to see Holes’. It was so different and exciting and I still feel that way all these years later. If you haven’t seen it check it out on Netflix and enjoy a great family film. And then have a discussion with your kids about the important issues it raises as part of your family home evening lesson. If you do, I would love to hear your experiences and how your family responds to the movie.
Please follow the link below to see my review.