This is a tale of burrowing owls, bulldozers, and bullies -- all of which will come together in Florida when Corporate America goes head-to-head with Natural America. It's a film aimed at the 'tween crowed, so there's a good chance you already know who's going to coming out on top -- even though in this case, the winner may be the one on the bottom.
The story's protagonist is Roy (Logan Lerman), a "fish out of water" who's been forced to move from Montana to Florida. So far life in his new home has been full of pressing issues -- mainly his face against the school bus window-- thanks to unwittingly becoming the target of Dana Matherson (Eric Phillips). It seems the huge tormentor finds his own self-confidence through regularly intimidating others. (Nor do relations improve when Roy swings in self-defense and accidentally breaks the brute's nose.)
The only distraction from this daily discomfort is the sight of a strange, shoeless boy (Cody Linley) running along side the bus, at what appears to be the same speed. Curious, Roy decides to find out all he can about the lanky lad. But the budding detective's quest is soon getting him just as badly beat up when he chases the mysterious sprinter across a golf course and gets a birdie (the kind that goes "tweet, tweet" around in one's head) after he is squarely hit with a golf ball.
Undaunted, Roy continues to follow any available clues, which eventually lead him to a reluctant source named Beatrice (Brie Larson) and the future site of a pancake house. There he not only finds The Barefoot Kid (who's real nickname turns out to be Mullet Fingers), he also learns the construction zone has become the subject of much local attention. Both the contractor and the police have their eyes glued due to a rash of episodes of mild vandalism -- things like pulled out survey stakes, deflated tires, and gators in toilets. It doesn't take much more digging to unearth the Mullet's interest in the soon-to-be-developed lot. The plot of dirt is home to a small group of burrowing owls.
And you won't need to be Sherlock Holms to figure out where the script goes from there. Like many movies involving young people wanting to change the world, Hoot walks a fine line between justified protest and illegal activities. Roy's new friends are convinced no flapjack franchise is worth destroying the habitat of an endangered species. Yet their methods of blocking the building process are at the very least questionable, and downright prosecutable after they decide to tie-up the contractor. While the Montana native uses a cooler head to work the problem through civic bureaucracy, his efforts eventually lead to an extended scene in which he is guilty of resisting arrest.
Fortunately, there is some balance to the film's portrayals. The jobs created by the new business are considered. The kids even recognize there is nothing wrong with the corporate enterprise--they just want head office to pick a better location (why they chose such an isolated spot in the first place is never addressed).
Content issues prove to be as lighthearted as the production too. Sexual content is limited to a low cut dress and a young girl who sleeps overnight in a boy's bedroom (separately from the young man), and the inclusion of a couple of mildly questionable words.
Besides the familiar story, you might also recognize the science teacher. Played by Jimmy Buffett (perhaps best known for Margaretaville), the singer/song-writer created the music for the film. An active environmentalist, it's little surprise the entertainer was willing to lend his talent to this message movie intent on motivating viewers to give a Hoot about the plight of burrowing owls.