Movie Review by Neil Ryan
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette, Shia LaBeouf, Tim Blake Nelson
Director: Andrew Davis
HOLES is based on one of the few recently published children’s novels to challenge Harry Potter in the popularity stakes, and although the film is intended for a younger audience it does show admirable ambition by interweaving three different stories from three different centuries into a cogent whole. Jumping between the three separate periods the plot brings these disparate strands together in the final fifteen minutes in a manner that will reward the perseverance of both adult and younger viewers alike.
The holes of the title are being dug throughout a parched Texas landscape by the young campmates at Green Lake, a correctional centre for juvenile offenders. The purpose of the digging is ostensibly to build character but the adults in charge of the facility – Mr Sir (Jon Voight), Dr Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson), and the fearsome Warden (Sigourney Weaver) – seem to take an unusually enthusiastic interest in any artefacts unearthed as a result of the labour of their young charges’. One child in particular, the falsely interned Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf), is intrigued by the warden’s motives. His unjust incarceration is no surprise to him because the men in his family have been cursed ever since an ancestor defied the mysterious Madame Zeroni (Eartha Kitt) in Eighteenth Century Latvia, but as Stanley gradually unravels the secret of Camp Green Lakes’ holes he also, unknowingly, edges ever closer to emancipating his family from the hex that plagues them.
HOLES is an intelligent and well-crafted mystery adventure. It is essentially a SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION for kids, as the indomitable spirit of the wrongly imprisoned hero helps him to survive and, ultimately, conquer the rigours of his punishment. The adult stars enjoy themselves without resorting to unnecessary hamming (although it is a shame that the characters portrayed by Weaver and Voight are forced to act like a pair of unmasked Scooby-Doo villains at the end of the film), and although older viewers may find it hard to accept the occasions when reality is kept firmly at arm’s length (especially in the far too neat tidying up of loose ends at the film’s conclusion), HOLES treats its audience with intelligence and a refreshing lack of condescension and should thus appeal to all, particularly the 10-15 year-old age range.