*** (out of 5)
May 5, 2006
Logan Lerman as ROY EBERHARDT
Brie Larson as BEATRICE LEEP
Cody Linley as MULLET FINGERS
Luke Wilson as OFFICER DELINKO
Eric Phillips as DANA MATHERSON
Tim Blake Nelson as CURLY BRANITT
Clark Gregg as CHUCK MUCKLE
Studio: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Wil Shriner
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Even before its release, “Hoot” suffered a deluge of criticism as left-wing propaganda for budding environmentalists. This criticism is not unfounded, considering the main characters of the film engage in soft-core eco terrorism on greedy land developers in Florida.
However, if you can get past that overt and sometimes overpowering message, “Hoot” ain’t a bad film.
At its core, “Hoot” is more of a story about acceptance and friendship. It focuses on Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman), a middle schooler who has just moved from Montana to Florida. He’s bullied at school, and he’s having trouble fitting in. However, when he meets a brother-sister team trying to save a band of burrowing owls from being bulldozed, he comes out of his shell.
Most of the adults in the film are, of course, portrayed as bumbling idiots, which will always appeal to teenagers. Luke Wilson leads this adult cast of doofuses with expert precision.
The story is a bit weak, sounding like a retreaded Scooby-Doo episode without the ghosts. Based on the book by Carl Hiaasan (who was the author behind “Striptease”), “Hoot” feels very much like the Saturday morning made-for-TV films I’d watch as a child. Ultimately, it has a lot of heart and can be a fun family film if you can get past the eco-warrior angle.
If my kids were older and I brought them to see the movie, I would have to spend some time debriefing them after the film. There’s a certain noble outlaw flavor to the movie that is put on a pedestal. The character of Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley) avoids the truant office in order to sabotage the building of a pancake house.
The real problem with this angle is that after all is said and done, the kids aren’t punished or even reprimanded for their actions. They aren’t out there spiking trees, mind you, but they are destroying property and engaging in potentially dangerous tactics. In this sense, the film has a very strong ends-justify-the-means message, which isn’t exactly the best message for would-be middle school outlaws.
Ultimately, the movie covers its tracks by showing the pancake house developers as greedy land-owners who are committing fraud with ecological reports in order to keep their building plans on schedule. It’s a nice effort, but not entirely realistic. After all, what frustrates many environmentalists is that developers can work within the confines of the law and still develop land.
I do find it odd that the filmmakers and fans of the book are striking back at conservative commentators for branding the film as a political platform. It is, to the extent that literature about environmental causes has been printed and distributed surrounding the film. Even stars like Jimmy Buffett, one of my favorite musicians even though he’s an unapologetic Florida activist, have thrown down for this movie.
Additionally, there are extended speeches by Mullet Fingers about how developers are ruining Florida, and the film wraps up with the implication that he and Roy are going to continue sabotaging building efforts in town – especially those that cater to the rich. My view is that if you want to make a film with an overt political message, fine. Just don’t get upset if you’re criticized for it.
Still, “Hoot” can be a lot of fun and should touch the hearts of kids.