Saturday, March 22, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Holes (2003) ***½

PG, 117 min.
Director: Andrew Davis
Writer: Louis Sachar (also novel)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Khleo Thomas, Jon Voight, Sigourney Weaver, Tim Blake Nelson, Patricia Arquette, Dulé Hill, Scott Plank, Jake M. Smith, Bryon Cotton, Brenden Jefferson, Miguel Castro, Max Kasch, Noah Poleteik, Henry Winkler, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Nathan Davis, Eartha Kitt, Eric Pierpoint, Rick Fox

“Holes” is a wonderful adolescent movie that shows us a young Shia LaBeouf long before he was “no longer a celebrity” and reminds us why he became one in the first place.

Taken from Louis Sachar’s popular book, the story follows Shia as a youth wrongfully accused of stealing a pair of sneakers from a charity auction for the homeless. Instead of jail, he’s sent to a youth correctional camp run by questionable adults. At the “camp” the juveniles are forced to dig holes in a dried out lake bottom all day everyday. The “counselors” claim it is to build character, but it becomes obvious fairly early on that they are looking for something. That secret has great ramifications on the boy’s life and involves his ancestry, which the movie tells in flashbacks.

“Holes” reminds me of movies I saw as a child. It’s a rarity in today’s film market because it doesn’t persist on explosions and non-stop CGI-created special effects. It relies on its characters to tell its story, and it is just as engrossing for children as any “Star Wars” adventure, perhaps even more so. Because it’s hero is falsely accused, kids can get a good sense of what injustice is from it, but it also contains good lessons about right and wrong. Plus, it never tries to pretend that all of the juveniles in the correctional program are innocent. They aren’t good kids, but that doesn’t make the adults taking advantage of them any less wrong.

As for LaBeouf, he proves himself versatile as a child actor and an excellent hero. It must be hard for him at the current stage in his career. He has an ease on the screen that allowed him early success, but never having had to struggle to gain his success as an adult, he may have missed out on some key lessons of maturity as an artist. Much of what he is currently engaged in under the scrutiny of the public eye is the type of acting out and exploration that many artists do before the public has any focus on them.

He is an actor with a great deal of potential. In many ways his current behavior reminds me of the early offscreen exploits of Robert Downey Jr. Downey’s star was rising at a time when drugs were a great temptation for a young artist. After struggling with abuse, he eventually overcame his demons. I hope LaBeouf can reign in his antics soon and capitalize on his talent in the same way as Downey.

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