Making the Grades
Bad luck has dogged Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia LaBeouf) and his family ever since his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather (Damien Luvara) crossed a Latvian gypsy (Eartha Kitt) and brought a curse upon the male members of the clan.
So it's no surprise when a pair of stolen track shoes falls from the sky and hits Stanley squarely on the head. Despite his plea of innocence, he is quickly charged with pinching the famous sneakers and shipped off to Camp Green Lake, a detention destination where nothing green or lake-like exists for miles around. There, in the searing summer heat, the detainees build character by digging holes in a dried up lake bed, day after day after day.
Given orange overalls and shovel, Stanley is assigned to D Tent by camp counselor Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson). Although his initial introduction to the delinquents in his bunkhouse is rather rough, over time a truce - if not friendship - develops among the boys. X-Ray (Brenden Jefferson) is the group leader who dictates the tent's pecking order among Armpit (Byron Cotton), Magnet (Miguel Castro), Squid (Jake M. Smith), ZigZag (Max Kasch) and Zero (Khleo Thomas).
In the morning, the young offenders head out to work under the watchful eye of Mr. Sir (Jon Voight), a cranky supervisor who makes their time in the dirt as miserable as possible. He does, however, promise the boys the possibility of an afternoon off and extra shower tokens if they find anything special while digging.
With that in mind, Stanley begins to question the character-building component of their excavation work when a small metal item found in one of the holes brings their elusive female Warden (Sigourney Weaver) rushing out of her air-conditioned house and into the hot sun. Piecing together bits of local legend, he soon discovers the real reason behind the endless pits.
Adapting his award-winning novel, Holes, to a screenplay offered Louis Sachar a chance to be intimately involved in bringing his characters to life and in keeping the plot true to the book. Intertwining the lives of several generations of Yelnats with the Old West figures of Kissin' Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette) and Sam, the onion man (Dule Hill), the author gives audiences an engaging story best suited for the 12 and up crowd.
Unless you're familiar with the book, be warned there are several tense scenes involving poisonous reptiles and other moments of peril for the hero. As well, Kissin' Kate, a rampaging outlaw with revenge on her mind, only plants her lip prints on her victims after she shoots them. The result is ample amounts of her screen time devoted to killings and lifeless bodies slumped over in coffins.
Although the ancestral curse thwarts Stanley and his dad (Henry Winkler) in every attempt at success, their never-give-up attitude grants them an innate ability to make the best of their constant misfortunes. It's that knack of pulling diamonds out of dust bowls that makes Holes a gem of a movie worth digging around for.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Holes.
Despite Stanleys string of bad luck, what was his attitude? How did that affect his actions at Camp Green Lake and his relationship with the other boys? Did it have an effect on the Yelnats family luck?
Gypsy curses aside, can a persons life decisions influence his/her family for generations to come?
Louis Sachars novel has been published in nearly 30 countries and may be worth a read before checking out the movie. Find out more about the author at www.kidsreads.com/authors/au-sachar-louis.asp.