6 out of 10
"Once upon a time, there was a magical place where it never rained, the end."
Before seeing "Holes," I had had heard many good things. Written by American author Louis Sachnar and published in 1998, it has been the winner of several children's book awards including the coveted Newbery medal and like many well-written, well-recieved children's novels, a film version was sure to appear. Unfortunately, like many others before it,"Holes," even with it's sweet and memorable storyline, suffers greatly from it's adaptation.
At the center of the story is main character Stanley Yelnats the fourth, a young boy who through mistaken identity and a mishap involving a pair of donated shoes owned by sports star Clive "Sweetfeet" Livingstone, is given a choice between prison and being sent for 18 months of character building to Camp Green Lake, a camp in the desert with no lake in sight. Having never attended camp before, Yelnats excitedly choses Green Lake, but soon discovers things will be more difficult that he thought, as he is confronted with the ominous camp councillor Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) and a daily routine of digging 5x5 foot holes in the hot desert sun. Besides the holes, there is also the mysterious warden (Signorney Weaver) who no one has ever seen and the other boys at camp to contend with. All this comes as no surprise to Stanley as he is more than familiar with bad luck. The Yelnats family curse placed on his great grandfather, the first relative to come to America, the no-good-pig-stealing Elya Yelnats, by gypsy Madame Zeroni (Eartha Kitt) has followed each generation down the line. However, the longer Stanley stays at camp, he begins to discover that the holes he is digging may reveal something about Elya and change his future and the life of his family forever.
With several big name stars including Jon Voight, Henry Winkler and Sigourney Weaver, direction by Andrew Davis ("The Fugitive") and a big budget and original soundtrack courtesy of Disney, one might expect a fairly solid effort at first glance. However, based on a screenplay written by Sachnar, who has had little previous experience in film, it is overly dark in places and relies to heavily on the sort of lines that sound good in books but don't come across with enough punch in film. Added to less than sensational appearances by Weaver and Voight, the brightest moments of "Holes" are the ones involving the lesser characters such is Patricia Arquette's Kissin' Kate Barlow, Damien Luvara's Elya Yelnats and Saja Matejas's dimwitted Myra Menke. Also a treat are the lesser known actors, including an impressive performance by lead Shia LaBeouf (Stanley Yelnats). Moving at an too slow a pace, the story although clever, loses steam and becomes disjointed and as oppressive as digging a 5x5 hole in the Texas sun, only picking up tension and interest through smaller comical and more adventure-filled subplots.
An interesting watch and bound to be enjoyed by readers of the novel, it has a well- thought out, intreguing and surprisingly charming story, but as a film has too many lulls, drab moments and hits and misses to recreate the magic it deserves.
Not hole-ly bad, not hole-ly good
Film Critic: Jennifer M. Lillies