A rare kids' flick that engages youthful intellect and heart instead of patting youngsters on the head and spoon-feeding them stock anecdotes and tie-in toys, "Holes" is a fun family flick with a manifold plot about a smart, quiet teenager who gets the fate-fueled chance to reverse his family's hereditary bad luck.
It seems a curse was put the great-great-grandfather of curly-headed moppet Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf), and the trickle-down effect has landed the kid at a parched, ghost-town-like juvenile rehabilitation center in West Texas -- ironically called Camp Green Lake -- for a crime he didn't commit.
The venomous Warden (Sigorney Weaver, delighting in the role's sneering, sinister qualities) has a strange idea for building character in her charges: the boys spend every single day digging five-foot-deep holes in the dry lakebed. Her policies are enforced by the Mr. Sir, a classically menacing, beer-bellied, bow-legged figure played by Jon Voight in a scene-stealing standout performance. Sporting a graying Elvis pompadour, a villain's pencil mustache, twitchy wild eyes, and a low-slung holster, he's the kind of baddie who makes you giggle while making your skin crawl too, as he squints in the faces of potential escapees and seethes that in the desert "the buzzards'll pick ya clean by the end of the third day."
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The film is expected to continue without Mendes' involvement.