Parrotheads may be the only people to give a hoot about Hoot if Judge Brett Cullum's suspicions are correct.
"Give a hoot. Don't pollute!"—Woodsy the Owl
I don't know many movies that attempt to turn teens into tree huggers, but that's exactly what Hoot achieves. It's based on Carl Hiassen's beloved 2002 novel written for youngsters, and produced by the same people who brought us the wildly inventive Holes. The film comes off clumsy, but earnest, as it relates the story of a group of kids determined to save some owls from a pancake house. Yes, the bad guys are out to build a pancake house on the land where cute burrowing owls have made their home. I always knew IHOP was evil!
Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman, The Butterfly Effect) is a kid who has just moved from Montana to Florida, and he's the object of torture by a relentless bully who nicknames him "Cowgirl." He's also fascinated by a barefoot blonde boy (Cody Linley, Cheaper By the Dozen) who he sees running alongside his school bus. Soon Roy befriends a tough-as-nails girl jock (Brie Larson, 13 Going on 30) who helps him fight off his bully, and turns out to be the stepsister of the blonde boy. Roy discovers the two siblings by law are fighting a crusade against the development of the evil pancake palace to save the owls. Together they all band together to fight the flapjacks and save the birds.
Hoot plays out like an After School Special as it plods along with its hackneyed environmental crusading. One particularly puzzling tactic used by the kids to thwart the construction is the introduction of cotton-mouth snakes on the site. Snakes eat owls, and so it seems more than a little ecologically irresponsible as well as dangerous. This is the kind of misstep that Hoot seems to make regularly as we are watching a predictable story that will end exactly as we think. Would I spoil anyone by saying the owls make it? Imagine if they didn't, and how much more powerful the film could be as it traumitized kids with visions of dead birds. I truly love animals, but I hate predictable plots even if they are well intentioned.
The transfer is anamorphic widescreen with true colors and no digital noise. The disc looks good, and Florida certainly looks beautiful as do the kids. The surround track impressively uses atmospherics to make a dynamic field for the film to play out on. Jimmy Buffett is a co-producer, and he supplies a handful of new songs to the soundtrack and makes a cameo in the film as a treat for Parrotheads. Extras are surprisingly robust featuring many aimed at nature and educational bits about owls. There is a great commentary with the author of the book and the director of the film. Also included are deleted scenes, interviews with the cast, a feature on Buffett, a look at the director, how they trained the animals, a blooper reel, and tons of trailers. Wow! They did give a hoot for Hoot.
The movie is an inept but well-meaning tale about environmental activism. The animals are cool, the kids are okay, but the story is dull and illogical. Kids may find it fine if they have a love of animals particularly birds. There's nothing to reccommend the disc other than some enviromentally good intentions and some great shots of Florida and its wildlife. Hoot is a misguided attempt at being a kids film that matters.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
• Hoot's Hands-On Habitat Projects
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