Newest Review: ... the misadventures of Stanley, the next scene is a flashback to the late 19th century Italy, where one of Stanley's ancestors brings... more
Stanley and his no-good-dirty-rotten-p ig-stealing-great-grea t-grandfather!
Member Name: best_deal_hunter
Advantages: Gripping, twisty plot, great family film
A little while ago I wrote a review of the book 'Holes' by Louis Sachar. I mentioned that this book - despite having spent a very long time in the bestseller lists - was one I had totally missed. Brilliant, brilliant book I can't recommend highly enough.
Anyway, someone left a comment on that review saying that the film was, for once, as good as the book - a comment for which I am very grateful, as until that point I didn't even know there was a film! As my daughter (aged 12), my husband and I all adored the book, we were looking forward to the film with high expectations - and it didn't disappoint. My son (aged 10) who didn't know the story promptly declared the film his favourite ever and is now desperate to read the book.
The story starts with the wonderfully named Stanley Yelnats (I love palindromes, so this name got me hooked from the start!) who is sent to a juvenile 'Camp' for a crime he didn't commit. He soon discovers this is no holiday camp - but nor does it seem like any other juvenile correctional facility. The inmates all have to dig holes, in the blistering desert sun - one hole a day, five feet deep, five feet in diameter. But why? For me, this was a 'get under your skin' mystery - I cared about the characters and I wanted answers.
The story flips at times to one of two others. The first is the tale of Stanley's great-great-grandfather, his encounter with the mysterious Madam Zeroni, and the subsequent curse on the Yelnats family. Everything bad is blamed on Stanley's 'no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-gra ndfather!' The second is the tale of notorious outlaw Kissing Kate Barlow, who kisses her victims after she kills them.
This is one of those stories where the twists and turns in the plot are definitely to be discovered along the way - there is a real joy in coming to realise how the seemingly unrelated strands of plot weave together into a seamless whole.
One thing we all hate as a family is when a book we have loved is altered beyond recognition for a film. Choruses of 'it wasn't like that in the book' tend to disrupt viewing somewhat! In this case, the film is astonishingly close to the book - this is probably due in no small part to the fact that the screenplay was written by Louis Sachar himself. Where there are minor deviations, these are actually explained in the dvd extras, explanations which we found satisfied our passion for accuracy!
The acting is excellent. The main adult roles are played by Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight - as good as you would expect. Eartha Kitt as Madam Zeroni and Henry Winkler (aka the Fonz!) as Stanley's father provide those fun moments of 'ooh, didn't know he/she was in it!') The youngsters, all relatively unknown, certainly at the time the film was made (2003), do a fantastic job - really believable performances.
The rating is PG - as mentioned, my 10-year-old loved it, but there are one or two instances of language I would have considered unsuitable when the children were a bit younger - but then they probably wouldn't have liked the film much when younger anyway. Mostly the language is fine, but just something to be aware of. Imaginative epithets are more the order of the day - 'You sideburned neanderthal' is one of the insults my son seized on gleefully!
Overall, this is a great film for a family viewing, but I think it also stands up as a film for anyone to watch. Can be found quite cheaply now, as it has been out a few years.
Summary: Well worth a watch