To get into Holes, I almost had to dig a few holes myself and shove some 8-to-12-year-olds in them. It was the Friday of spring vacation, and the fans of Louis Sachar's Newbery Medal-winning novel ' 2.7 million copies in print so far ' were lined up ahead of me as far as the eye could see. They were a well-behaved group, waiting patiently while the crowd from the previous screening exited the theater. Perhaps they were afraid that if they acted up they'd get sent to a labor camp not unlike the one in Holes, where young boys spend day after day shoveling dirt in the hot Texas sun. Like Chicken Run, Holes takes the kind of place that made World War II such a landmark in the annals of crime and turns it into the setting for, well, a Disney movie.
Honey, I Deported the Kids!
That's pretty much what happens to Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf) after he's convicted of stealing a pair of shoes that literally fell out of the sky. The inheritor of a family curse that goes back several generations, Stanley gets sentenced to 18 months at Camp Green Lake, which used to be green and used to be a lake but is now a vast expanse of potholes ' five feet deep, five feet in diameter ' teeming with rattlers and scorpions and poisonous lizards. Each of the camp's juvenile delinquents is required to dig one hole a day, and although the camp authorities ' Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight, spitting venom with each line ' claim the point is to build character, the boys suspect it has something to do with buried treasure.
It also has something to do with a Latvian fortune teller (Eartha Kitt), an onion farmer (DulÃ Hill) and a Wild West gunslinger named Kissin' Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette) ' each story tied to that family curse. Sachar, who adapted his novel to the screen, tries not to leave anything out, but Holes could maybe use some holes; it's crammed with incident. Luckily, director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) does a good job of linking the various stories. The most engaging story, of course, is the one that's playing out at Camp Green Lake, the twang of a 12-string guitar on the soundtrack giving a Cool Hand Luke feeling to the proceedings. A kid could actually get hurt in this godforsaken environment. No wonder the book's so popular.