‘Holes’ translates from book to movie perfectly
There are very few movie adaptations that I feel actually do a good job of capturing the feel and plot line of a book perfectly. Disney’s “Holes” is one of those few.
Like many my age, in middle school we read the 1998 novel “Holes.” This was followed by watching the movie (everyone’s favorite part… a break from actual school work? That was nice). Although I haven’t read the book since, I still remember being amazed at how well the movie followed its source material.
“Holes” was released in 2003 and stars Shia LaBeouf as Stanley Yelnats IV, a teenage boy who finds himself at a “camp” for troubled youth after he’s caught with a pair of famous baseball cleats.
Camp Green Lake, once a thriving lake side, town has been reduced to a desert. The origins behind why this oasis turned to dust is revealed slowly over time in a variety of flashbacks, which include a forbidden romance, outlaws and a sad ending in my opinion.
Stanley was unable to prove to the judge or police that he didn’t steal the cleats, they literally smacked him in the head as he was walking under an overpass. His grandfather, Stanley Yelnats Jr., blames his grandson’s “no good, dirty, rotten, pig stealing great-great-grandfather” Elya for his bad luck, claiming he’d been cursed by fortune teller Madame Zeroni in Latvia when he failed to do a task for her.
Throughout the movie, Camp Green Lake serves as the hub for each story line. No matter where a plot point began, it all comes together at this questionable camp for young boys.
The way “Holes” weaves the past and the present together is still interesting to me even now. From tying up Elya’s failed task to the story behind Camp Green Lake Warden Louise Walker’s (Sigourney Weaver) reason she has a bunch of teenagers digging 5’x5′ holes everyday, it covers it all.
LaBeouf of course did a great job in the role of Stanley IV. This movie came out during his acting prime and before he went a little off the deep end (a fate more than one Disney star has suffered through unfortunately).
The only difference between his portrayal of Stanley from the book was his weight. In the book, Stanley is overweight and gradually loses it over time. The film’s director Andrew Davis decided to forgo that piece of the story due to how dangerous it could be for a young actor to rapidly lose weight over the course of filming.
Although Stanley and Camp Green Lake are the focus of the film. I do want to give credit to its Green Lake flashbacks. The story behind outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette) is honestly worth highlighting. I’d say her character is one of my favorites from the film. You couldn’t help but empathize a bit with why she went from a kind and thoughtful school teacher to a dangerous outlaw (if you watch the movie you may understand my thought process here).
Although it hasn’t quite been 20 years since its release, “Holes” is one that I’d consider a classic. It has a very easy to follow plot line with many intersecting story points that each provide their own source of intrigue. For a kids movie (a Disney one no less) it’s extremely good.
My only new thought I had while watching it was… how in the heck did Walker manage to get away with exploiting child labor under the guise of “character building” for so long? But, like a lot of Disney films, logic isn’t always the main focus of their movies. Just an interesting story.
“Holes” is rated PG and can be watched on Disney+, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, Vudu and Amazon Prime.
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Laura Jameson is a staff reporter for The Express.