Movie Review: Hoot
FILM REVIEW: HOOT
By Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune Movie Critic
One of these days someone is going to make a really good movie out of a Carl Hiaasen book - maybe "Skinny Dip," lately optioned for the screen by Mike Nichols. To date we have had "Striptease." And now, in a less tawdry vein, we have "Hoot," based on his 2002 novel for preteens and teens.
It should have worked. Anyone can relate to the travails of being the new kid in school. Everybody likes a mystery. Many people like owls and would rather not see them relocated, or worse, because some greedy capitalist wants to build a pancake house on a parcel of Florida land housing saucer-eyed birds on the endangered species list.
The new kid at Trace Middle School, Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman), instantly runs afoul of the meanest teen on the bus (Eric Phillips) as well as the supernaturally hostile jock Beatrice (Brie Larson). The latter has a connection to the mysterious sprinting nature-boy known as Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley), whose mission, should Roy choose to accept his part in it, is to sabotage the pancake house construction site in order to save the owls.
In his feature-film directing debut, Wil Shriner, best known as a comic and actor, treats Hiaasen's story with more respect than verve. This is teen wish-fulfillment done with impersonal competence and no particular tone or style. The teens themselves are pleasant company. But Shriner lets many of his adult players - good ones, such as Clark Gregg as the pancake baddie, Tim Blake Nelson as his hapless flunky, and Luke Wilson as a naive policeman - come off like mugging amateurs. (Robert Wagner, who appears late in the action as the mayor of Coconut Cove, Fla., usually comes off that way anyway, so he's more or less at home.)
Jimmy Buffett, one of two "Hoot" producers, appears as Roy's marine biology teacher and contributes several songs for the soundtrack, in his patented, take-it-easy "Margaritaville" fashion. The songs take some of the sting out of the numerous scenes involving alligators, snakes, attack dogs and bullies. Yet in their lazy way, they're one more reminder that kids are better off with a book than a middling movie adaptation of a book.
Directed by Wil Shriner; screenplay by Shriner, based on the novel by Carl Hiaasen; cinematography by Michael Chapman; edited by Alan Edward Bell; production design by Stephen Lineweaver; music by Jimmy Buffett, Phil Marshall, Michael Utley and Mac McAnally; produced by Frank Marshall and Jimmy Buffett. A New Line Cinema and Walden Media release; opens Friday, April 5. Running time: 1:30. MPAA rating: PG (mild bullying and brief language).
Roy - Logan Lerman
Beatrice - Brie Larson
Mullet Fingers - Cody Linley
Curly - Tim Blake Nelson
Dana - Eric Phillips