It's a wonderfully inventive story about young Stanley Yelnats (Shia LeBeouf) who, suffering from a hundred-year-old curse on his family, is wrongly sent to the dreaded juvenile detention center Camp Green Lake. Ruthless camp director The Warden (Sigourney Weaver) and her henchmen Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) and Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson) force Stanley and a camp full of troublesome youths to dig holes in the desert all day, every day, with few provisions. There are rewards for finding anything “interesting.” Stanley and his campmates begin to question why The Warden is having them dig all these holes, no longer buying Mr. Sir's explanation that it's “to build character.” A number of clever discoveries weave together the mystery of the holes with the Yelnats family curse.
The performances are all fine, especially Jon Voight as the comically sadistic Mr. Sir, but the degree to which “Holes” is successful depends on how much we root for the kids. While most of these kids are juvenile delinquents, it seems unnecessary for the film to hammer the nail through the wall with this point by portraying them as exceptionally cruel. Considerable screen-time depicts these kids engaged in fights, name-calling, stealing precious food and water, stealing rewards and blaming others for their crimes. It's fun to see mysteries unlocked, spells broken and manipulative oppressors brought to justice. It would just be preferable were it not done by a bunch of horrible brats. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight and Patricia Arquette. Directed and produced by Andrew Davis. Written by Louis Sachar. A Buena Vista release. Adventure. Rated PG for violence, mild language and some thematic elements. Running time: 111min