Mr. Sir: You girl scouts want to hear a story? Once upon a time there was a magical place where it never rained. The end.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Based on the novel of the same name by Louis Sachar, Holes is one of the most underrated movie adaptations out there. It not only succeeds in staying true to the book but also succeeds in translating the majority of it over to film. Almost everyone has seen this movie growing up and even today it proves to be quite the gem in Disney’s world of live-action.
The story involves Stanley Yelnats (Shia Lebeouf) being wrongfully arrested for stealing a pair of sneakers. The sneakers it turned out belonged to a famous sports star named Clyde Livingston (Rick Fox) who had donated them to charity, which gives the crime a much bigger sentence. He is given a choice to either do time in prison or go to a juvenile detention center called Camp Green Lake where he is forced to dig holes in the hot sun all day. While there he meets a variety of characters and we learn the backstory of Stanley’s family history and how it ties into the backstory of the camp itself.
The movie succeeds in being an adaptation in that for starters, the dialogue is made up of the exact quotes from the book and the actors deliver it in a believable way. And the story is done executed the same way. Like most adaptations there are some changes but the changes are relatively minor and in no way hurt the movie as a whole nor disrespect the source material.
We get flashbacks of how Camp Green Lake came to be as well as the curse involving the Yelnats family and it leads to the only one real problem with the film, which is the editing. When it flashes back, while the flashbacks are good and it’s a very interesting and investment-worthy story, it happens out of nowhere. Putting it together is what makes it very interesting and could even pass off as a short movie. Patricia Arquette in particular as Katherine Barlow does a wonderful job playing the once loving schoolteacher becoming a vengeful outlaw after the death of her lover Sam (Dule Hill) at the hands of a jealous Charles “Trout” Walker (Scott Plank).
Seeing Stanley interact off the other kids at the camp gives the movie a very colorful vibe. The teasing, the friendship between him and Zero a.k.a Hector (Khleo Thomas), and just all of them as a group is nothing short of genuine. The dialogue and the way they all deliver it make it feel like how real people would actually talk.
Sigourney Weaver as the camp warden, Jon Voight as Mr. Sir, and Tim Blake Nelson as Mr. Pendanski are the ones who run the camp and all of them are the perfect mix of silly and intimidating.
Unlike most movies the climax is not all that grand. If anything it’s rather restrained. But it works to the deep tone the movie tries to provide.
Holes is not a very big movie so it makes sense that it wouldn’t be held up as such. It is however an enjoyable one both in its performances and story. I can certainly dig a movie with those qualities and if you haven’t seen it well dive down a hole and take a look.