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Hoot (1/10)

by Tony Medley

Although I avoid animated films and Harry Potter, I have seen several children’s films in the past few years. Most of them I have liked. “Because of Winn Dixie” was very good. “Bad News Bears,” “Dreamer,” and “Zathura” were all enjoyable movies. They showed good parents, adults as positive role models (well, maybe not “Bad News Bears”), had reasonably credible story lines and pretty good scripts.

“Hoot,” on the other hand, has none of these virtues. Without exception the adults are reprehensible. The story line is ludicrous.

Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman) is the only son of parents who constantly move. This time they are moving to Florida, where Roy is the new guy in school. He is immediately attacked on the school bus by bully Dana Matherson (Eric Phillips). Roy is forced to fight back and breaks Dana’s nose. This is where the movie really began to lose me. His parents find out about it but have no sympathy for the fact that their son was being attacked and that he had no choice but to fight back. Instead of being proud of him standing up for himself against a bully, Roy’s father (Neil Flynn), a lawyer, is particularly unsympathetic. His clueless mother, Kiersten Warren, forces him to write a letter of apology to the bully. I’m sure that there are lots of stupid parents in this world like these jerks, but the point of this movie is that these people are normal, not abnormal, and that this is the normal way to treat the situation. Don’t support your son; support the bad guy. Yeah, that’s what I want my children to see.

Delinko (Luke Wilson) is a really inept policeman who is mistreated by his captain (John Archie). When Delinko goes to sleep and awakens to find the windows of his police cruiser have been painted black, the Captain takes the car away from him and forces him to ride around in a golf cart. This is just simply ridiculous.

Even more ludicrous is that Roy befriends a female soccer player, Beatrice Leap (Brie Larson) an 8th grade classmate of his, and she is tougher physically than the bully Dana. We are to believe that this skinny girl can overpower the huge, chubby bully. She hates Roy from the outset. Suddenly they are fast friends.

Roy also wants to meet a boy he sees from his school bus running everywhere, who turns out to be Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley), who is a truant from school, lives in a boat by the everglades and collects cottonmouth snakes.

The story line is that Roy, Beatrice, and Mullet Fingers are trying to keep a pancake house from being built because some owls live on the property and will be killed by the bulldozer. So the screenplay (Wil Shriner, who also directed, which is appropriate for this turkey) justifies the children lying constantly, skipping class, running away from the police, and breaking the law in order to keep the pancake house from being built.

The absurdity of this situation is that the ace in the hole of the movie is that the Environmental Impact Report that is required for such a project prohibited the pancake house from being built because of the owls. But nobody knows this because the one key page has been torn out of the report. Apparently nobody read the report originally. Apparently nobody was covering the legal process for the media, even though the construction of the pancake house is the biggest thing to happen to Coconut Cove because it is going to create 12 new jobs.

The most irritating character in a film replete with them, is the superintendent of construction trying to build the pancake house, Curly Brannick (Tim Blake Nelson). Every time he opens his mouth it’s like dragging your fingernails across a blackboard.

Robert Wagner makes a cameo as the mayor at the end of the film. Has RJ lost it? Who could read this script and want any part of it?

This is a deplorable movie. Movies for children should have positive values. Ideally, unless they are satires or have some serious premise, they should present parents in a favorable light, as loving role models, and present police and figures of authority in a favorable light. This movie, which is not a satire and which does not have a serious premise, does none of those.

The only attractive things about this film are the cinematography that shows some pretty Florida scenery, and the original music consisting of five new songs composed by Parrothead Jimmy Buffet, who also plays Mr. Ryan, apparently the only teacher in Roy’s school, and one who clearly couldn’t care less if Roy comes to class or not.

This is one to avoid, and if you have children, avoid it like the plague.

April 12, 2006