Kid Tested – Uncle Approved: “Holes” (2003)

First published in The Holyoke Enterprise August 20, 2015.

holesShia LeBeouf sure turned out to be a weirdo, didn’t he? Who’d have thought the kid who got his start in a Disney movie about a boys’ detention camp would turn out to be a wacko…? But I’m getting ahead of myself already.

“Holes” was a Disney film based on the novel of the same name that brought us Mr. LeBeouf on the big screen for the first time as Stanley Yelnats, a troubled boy accused of stealing baseball cleats and forced to rehabilitate himself in either prison or Camp Green Lake, a work camp in the middle of the Texas desert. Like any sensible person would, he chooses the camp but little does he know the Green Lake part of the name is a bit of a misnomer: the lake dried up and it hasn’t rained for 100 years, leaving an old, abandoned town behind as well. The Warden (Sigourney Weaver) oversees the camp and forces teenage boys to dig holes all over the now dry lake bed “to build character”, but it seems she’s searching for something.

While digging one of his holes, Stanley finds an old gold tube of lipstick with the initials “KB” encircled in a heart. The Warden immediately forces the boys to work double-time, digging up everything around the site, but little does she know, Stanley was forced by one of the other boys, nicknamed X-Ray, to hand it over to him so he could claim the credit. In the immortal words of Indiana Jones, “They’re digging in the wrong place”!

Stanley befriends a quiet boy named Zero, whom everyone picks on because he refuses to speak. Even the camp councilor Dr. Pedanski (Tim Blake Nelson) picks on him mercilessly, calling him stupid and belittling him for being illiterate. After an altercation between Stanley and other boy, Zero hits Pedanski in the face with a shovel and runs off into the desert. Stanley goes searching for him and they find a rock formation called God’s Thumb. Stanley remembers the legend of his great-grandfather who supposedly was robbed by “Kissing Kate” Barlow (Patricia Arquette) and left for dead in the desert. As Stanley’s own ancestry begins to cross over with the legend of Kissing Kate, he and Zero must race against the clock and the Warden to find out the truth about Stanley’s family name and why they’re digging in the first place.

Co-starring Jon Voight, Henry Winkler, and Eartha Kitt of all people, this live-action romp is a lot heavier than I expected. There’s some real stuff happening in this movie and quite unapologetically too. I mean, it starts with a boy stepping on a rattlesnake just to get out of the camp! The swearing is minimal, being a Disney film, but there are a couple “jump” moments throughout that might be a bit much for younger kids. It’s rated PG and I’d say it’s a pretty solid PG. Teens or tweens would be fine, but maybe not younger. But then again, I was a wimpy eight-year-old.

“Holes” has a good message, some funny lines and situations, and great performances all around. And it even made me remember how good of an actor Shia LeBeouf is. How about that?

Five out of five Snack Packs.

Lincoln L. Hayes is a former writer and columnist of the Holyoke Enterprise. He lives in Vermont where he continues to pursue an acting and filmmaking career. Follow him on Twitter @lincolnlhayes.

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