Published Apr 01, 2003Holes is a bizarre little movie, mixing the Disney-fication of troubled youth with two separate but vaguely intertwined multigenerational storylines and splitting the action between present day, the Old West, and 19th century Latvia.
The story centres around Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia Labeouf), who, suffering under a family curse dating from his great-grandfather's youth in Latvia, is wrongly convicted of stealing a pair of shoes and sent off to a Juvenile Detention camp in the middle of the desert. At the camp, Stanley and the other charges are forced to spend their days digging holes in the desert, ostensibly to build character but actually to find buried treasure. They are kept in line by the wacky yet menacing trio of folks running the camp (Jon Voight, Tim Blake Nelson and Sigourney Weaver). The movie seems unsure of what it wants to be, or who its audience is.
The film's plot is at once completely predictable, with the defeat of the curse telegraphed from a mile away, and needlessly complicated, with the Old West storyline of the origins of the treasure tied tenuously to Stanley's ancestral line as well. Its handling of issues such as race relations, homelessness and the life of at-risk youth is mainly sanitised and revisionist, but contains odd occasional lapses into almost too brutal reality. There is also a strange mix of the villains in the piece being set up as comedic, bumbling figures, only to have them come out with sudden scary outbursts of palpable violence.
There is some novelty to this bizarreness that, coupled with the copious number of good/interesting actor cameos (Patricia Arquette, Dulé Hill, Henry Winkler join Voight, Nelson and Weaver, in the disproportionately famous cast) make Holes, if not a good movie, at least a bit more watchable than your average tween fare.