Holes (2003)

Genres - Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Escape Film, Teen Movie  |   Release Date - Apr 18, 2003 (USA)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Tracie Cooper

An intricate balancing act of subplots and flashbacks, author Louis Sachar's Newberry Award-winning novel Holes translates fairly well onscreen, despite occasionally falling off-kilter. Unerringly faithful to the book, Holes takes on issues ranging from racial discrimination to what constitutes true character rehabilitation without a trace of heavy-handedness. Sachar, who also wrote the screenplay for Holes, has a clear and touching respect for the ability of children to grasp a message without the aide of an adult-wielded hammer. Newcomer Shia LaBeouf communicates the palindrome-named Stanley Yelnats' quiet bravery surprisingly well, and the supporting cast -- particularly Jon Voight as Texas tough-guy Mr. Sir, and Eartha Kitt's mysterious Madame Zeroni -- adds a non-saccharine richness to this already deeply interwoven story. Without the help of chapters or narration, however, the multi-leveled plots of Holes are sometimes hard to follow, if beautifully shot, particularly for anyone who hasn't read the book beforehand. The roots of the Yelnats family curse and the future involvement of schoolteacher-turned-outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette) are explained in flashbacks which often appear frenzied and occur with a frequency that deters from the development of the present-day characters. Still, though some of the subtleties of Holes are lost in translation, the symbolism that connects Stanley to Madame Zeroni's descendant, Kissin' Kate's buried loot, and the camp warden's (Sigourney Weaver) mysterious goal (not to mention cure-all onions, spiced peaches, stinky feet, and deadly yellow-spotted lizards) comes together in an excellent coming-of-age story that both children and adults would do well with viewing.