Grab a Shovel
Review by Ross Anthony

Seems like such a long time since I've seen a film with a classically powerful story. "Holes" pays off in this department. The front line tale of troubled teenagers at a desert "character-building" camp dominates, while a turn of the century (1900's) tale progresses in clips and snippets. The intertwining of the two makes for a powerful climax.

Shot with just a taste of the tongue and cheek to flavor the fun and de-emphasize what could have been a serious drama, "Holes" is sure to be a hit with families. Though, be forewarned, this is not a G film, there is some violence, even some killing.

Holes There's a lot to like. The acting: Jon Voight is a boot-wearin' hoot as Mister Sir, the warden's redneck henchman. Khleo Thomas is charming as Zero, the soft-spoken shortie with a golden heart. But it's Shia LaBeouf's strong performance as Stanley, the falsely accused, unfairly treated, Joe-average-teen, that carries the film. Kudos also to the fine direction and editing.

The easily forgotten flaws include: 1) The fun vehicle-stealing scene is too short-lived while Twitch ought to have played a greater role in it. 2) The rally of the friends is missing a beat to justify. 3) The first 10-15 minutes lacks intensity.

Still, this film builds artfully in intensity from start to finish, gives great climax, and even strong resolution. That rock solid story smoothes over the flaws (fills the holes) like a steamroller. I also appreciate (and suspect teens will as well) the way this story unravels; we're teased, left to figure out the clues on our own, while explanations come later and in the form of showing more often than telling. We're not insulted with everything being explained as it happens or worse -- before.

Interesting Note: The author says, "I think it's a fun and uplifting story... I never set out to teach a lesson. My goal is always to write a fun, entertaining and thought-provoking story. Any messages, and I think there are many in this book, come naturally out of the story."

The crew shot much of the film on the Cuddeback Dry Lake. They dug hundreds of holes and then filled them up again after the production.

  • Holes. Copyright © 2003. Rated PG.
  • Starring Shia LaBeouf, Jon Voight, Khleo Thomas, Sigourney Weaver, Tim Blake Nelson, Jake M. Smith, Byron Cotton, Brenden Jefferson, Miguel Castro, Max Kasch, Noah Poletiek.
  • Directed by Andrew Davis.
  • Screenplay by Louis Sachar, based on his novel.
  • Produced by Mike Medavoy, Andrew Davis, Teresa Tucker-Davies, Lowell BLank at Disney/Walden.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:08:58 PDT