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Holes Film Analysis Essay

The tough, prickly camaraderie among the boys and their solidarity in the face of adult cruelty give the picture its heart and also its pedigree, which includes movies like ''Stalag 17,'' ''The Great Escape,'' ''Cool Hand Luke'' and, more recently, ''Chicken Run.'' The weaselly Mr. Nelson, the growly, strutting Mr. Voight and the chilly, feline Ms. Weaver form a fine menagerie of grown-up corruption.

The younger actors are appropriately boisterous and appealing. Mr. LaBeouf, with his soft face and curly hair, rises to the challenge of depicting a coddled, sensitive young man who must prove his toughness without sacrificing his decency. Both qualities are tested by the other boys and also by Stanley's growing friendship with an especially troubled camp mate, a feral, runty child with the nickname Zero.

To offset the dusty bleakness of Camp Green Lake, a place beset by rattlesnakes and poisonous lizards, ''Holes'' conjures up storybook landscapes and subplots, which at first glance seem weirdly digressive. There is the matter of the Yelnats family curse, which has dogged four generations of Stanleys after being applied, back in Latvia, by Madame Zeroni (Eartha Kitt).

Then there is the legend of Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette), a 19th-century kissing bandit who harassed travelers near the present-day site of the camp. The connections between past and present emerge slowly; as the campers dig their literal holes, the movie quietly fills in the narrative holes and along the way uncovers some hard, substantial themes like greed, fate and the legacy of racism.

And it deals with these themes more honestly and with more respect for the audience's intelligence than most movies aimed at supposed grown-ups. The interracial romance that is, along with the Yelnats curse, the kernel of all that follows is treated with neither the skittishness nor the sensationalism that still characterize so many studio pictures. Perhaps the current generation of 10-year-olds has outgrown the hypocrisy and squeamishness of its forebears.

In any case, Mr. Sachar's young devotees will be gratified that ''Holes'' shows such fidelity to its source. But unlike, say, the ''Harry Potter'' films, Mr. Davis's movie has a brash, confident identity of its own. You spend much of it in a state of flashlight-under-the-covers breathlessness, wondering what on earth will happen next and what Stanley's unhappy predicament has to do with an ancient curse or the sad fate of a late-19th-century Texas onion peddler (Dulé Hill).

''Holes'' is one of the few recent movies I have seen that plunged me into that rare, giddy state of pleasurable confusion, of not knowing what would happen next, which I associate with the reading and moviegoing experiences of my own childhood. But there is no reason that children should have a monopoly on this primal, wonderful experience.

Yes, ''Holes'' is certainly the thing that schoolchildren will drag their parents to see on spring-break afternoons, but the parents who are dragged will find themselves watching the best film released by a major American studio so far this year.

''Holes'' is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). It has some violent scenes and very mild profanity.

HOLES

Directed by Andrew Davis; written by Louis Sachar, based on his novel; produced by Mike Medavoy, Teresa Tucker-Davies and Lowell Blank and Mr. Davis; Stephen St. John, director of photography; edited by Tom Nordberg and Jeffrey Wolf; music by Joel McNeely; Maher Ahmad, production designer. Released by Walt Disney Pictures. Running time: 117 minutes. This film is rated PG.

WITH: Sigourney Weaver (the Warden), Jon Voight (Mr. Sir), Tim Blake Nelson (Dr. Pendanski), Shia LaBeouf (Stanley), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Stanley's Mother), Henry Winkler (Stanley's Father), Eartha Kitt (Madame Zeroni), Dulé Hill (Sam), Khleo Thomas (Zero) and Patricia Arquette (Kate Barlow).

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Film + Book Comparison: "Holes" And "Big Fish"

Sachar’s 1998 quirky novel "Holes" and Burton’s equally esoteric feature film "Big Fish" (2003) develop interesting, likeable family characters. Although Stanley Yelnats and Edward Bloom are very different creations, their development involves some similarities. Both composers have used accumulation and non-linear plots to help breathe life into these characters.

Louis Sachar has used much accumulation to build up mental images of his character, Stanley Yelnats. Very little is said about his physical appearance, or indeed his personality early in the book. The only thing that is mentioned is that he overweight. This is emphasised with phrases like “... Stanley’s soft, fleshy hands” . This and others like it emphasise the image we have of him in our minds.

Because "Big Fish" is a film, all the visual elements are already there, but Edward Bloom’s personality does not appear as instantaneously as his features. At first he seems no more than a teller of tall tales who tries to pass his stories off as truth. But as the movie progresses, we see that not all of it is false – indeed, his stories are more truthful than they first appear. His story about the Asian singers who have one pair of legs but then split apart at the hips to have two torsos, heads, and pairs of arms, and what happened, is basically true, apart from the fact that they are two separate people.

"holes" jumps back and forth from past to present...

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