Tuesday, October 03, 2006

[Insert 'don't give a' Hoot joke here]

I saw posters for this film in the gift shop of Hidden River Cave in Kentucky back in May, and it looked bad just from the pix. Since American Airlines saw fit to inflict it (along with endless CBS commercials) on me over the weekend, I just had to write a review. In essence, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher engage in terrorist acts to save burrowing owls. Dandy.

Criminy, even the in-flight magazine had nothing good to say about the film! Hoot is adapted from an allegedly good and medal-winning young adult's book, and since I didn't read it, I'll judge the film on its own 'merits' and not as an adaptation. Also, I watched it with the sound off, but it was the kind of film where you can guess at least 65% of the dialogue.

Anyway, our Tom is some wide-eyed cute kid (cute in a Pete Townshend way, not the Paul McCartney way), and he gets his face mushed up against the school bus window by the local fat bully, and then he spies some blond kid running by like the wind, and then a blonde girl with glasses intervenes with the bully and...

This is also the kind of film where the female non-love interest has glasses at the beginning of the film but not by the end of it. A shame, as she was much more interesting looking with the odd angular frames beneath her golden mane. Sans glasses, this Becky Thatcher stand-in was not nearly as attractive. But that's OK, since judging from the covert co-ed sleepover scene between her and Tom, he ain't never gonna be interested in her like that. [Online research compels me to mention that "Tom's" nickname in the film is "Cowgirl." Yeah.]

Anyway, so we have Tom and Becky, and Huck is the deeply attractive blond youth running around in the woods. After some dull and obvious exposition, we learn that Huck here is a terrorist, planting alligators and poisonous snakes on a construction site. Why? To save some darling burrowing owls on the site. OK, now it bears asking why an animal lover would use other animals as weapons, imperiling them in the process of his crusade. It's not like snakes and 'gators don't already have a bad rap.

Whatever. This is set in Florida, but instead of the real fake Florida, it's actually Kiddie-Empowerment Fantasy Land. The kind of place where a middle-schooler can receive a knockout blow to the forehead and wake up in his own bed attended by mommy and daddy and a cold compress, and not in a hospital receiving a CT scan as a Grade Three concussion warrants. [Tom gets whacked again with a golfball, again in the head, later on and sadly does not succumb to Second-Impact syndrome.]

Everything about this film reeks of phony, from the school bully scenes (I can't tell if they advance the plot or not, but I'm guessing no), to Huck's bleached hair, to way the Scooby Doo caper wraps up. It's the kind of film that tries to inspire kids by uh, lying to them? And any environmental aspect is kinda ruined by the way these kids are, like, criminals. They vandalize property, plant lethal animals to harm construction workers, and even kidnap and hogtie a guy. Actually, there's a lot of tying and binding and kiddie bondage engaged in by Huck and Becky (not with each other), and one of the school bully scenes looks a hell of a lot like attempted rape. This is a film that just doesn't know what it wants to be-- black comedy? Afterschool special? A stomach-turning fusion of both with a dash of shounen ai (look it up) to turn on the girls?

Lookit, I saw Manny and Lo. That was a teen runaway black comedy (tho' the ending broke my suspension of disbelief). This Hoot thing is just... bad. The pacing sucks, the plot obviously sucks, and I can tell the dialogue is inane without even hearing a word of it. It's transparently bad.

OK, the kiddies save the owls and Show Everybody in the end, and Tom and Huck ride off into the Florida sun, where we leave them in the process of plotting to destroy a condo development. I guess that bit warmed my heart.