A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 136 – Hoot

Hoot – July 14th, 2010

As I might have mentioned, I’m a librarian. And tomorrow I am leading a book discussion where we’ll be watching a movie based on a book and then talking about the differences. And the book we’re doing is Hoot by Carl Hiaasen. It’s a children’s novel about a boy named Roy and how he stumbles upon a local boy’s mission to stop a pancake house from being built on top of the nests of some endangered owls. But you see, I needed to take notes so I’m well-prepared for tomorrow. And while I could refresh my memory on the book at work on my lunch breaks and whatnot, I couldn’t do that with the movie.

So we bought it. And instead of doing what I normally do during a movie, which is writing all or much of my reviews, I took notes on the differences and similarities between the book and the movie. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t expect movies to follow books slavishly because a moving picture medium is so different from a text-based medium, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to talk about.

Still, I don’t want some kid with the assignment to compare and contrast the book and the movie to stumble onto my review and lift the whole damn thing verbatim, so this isn’t going to be a point by point discussion of the book and the movie. Really, it doesn’t need to be. What struck me while watching so soon after reading is that while there are things left out, elided and combined, up until the climax of the movie things largely do happen on screen as they do on the page. The intro is a little talky, but then the first real scene is indeed the first scene in the book. There were lines spoken by just about every character that I immediately recalled from the book. The changes – aside from the end but I’ll get to that – are mostly minor. Things like Beatrice’s hair being different, and Mullet Fingers living in an old boat instead of an ice cream truck. Those are cosmetic differences, not substantial ones. The story’s the same, even if the ending’s a little different.

As I mentioned, Roy, the main character, stumbles on this plan a local has to ruin the construction of a pancake house in order to save some owls. They’re burrowing owls, and live in tunnels and holes in the ground. The Mother Paula’s Pancake House company is planning on building their 100th restaurant in the region in a lot just brimming with owls, not that they’re acknowledging the owls’ presence. Anyhow, Roy meets this mysterious boy who goes barefoot and snoops around, eventually finding out that he goes by the name of Mullet Fingers (due to being able to catch a mullet with his bare hands, not because of his luxurious locks) and that he’s trying to sabotage the construction site. Mullet’s done things like letting loose cotton mouths at the site, putting crocodiles in the port-a-potties, removing all the survey stakes, etc. And the movie follows him, his sister Beatrice, and Roy as they try to figure out how to stop Mother Paula’s.

On the other side, there’s a local cop, Delinko, who’s been trying to help catch whoever’s vandalizing the site while avoiding getting in trouble with his chief. There’s Curly, the site foreman who’s stuck dealing with all of Mullet’s mischief while his boss, Muckle, demands that he get it sorted, and fast, so he can build his 100th restaurant. And there’s Roy’s parents, a bully at school who has it in for Roy, and a kindly marine studies teacher at school. I’ll tell you one thing: Delinko’s a hell of a lot more slapstick and comedic relief in the movie than he is on the page. I spent most of the book feeling sorry for both him and Curly, who’re just trying to do their jobs and don’t really know the extent of what’s going on. In the movie, they’re both played for laughs. It sort of works, but Delinko’s part is a little more than I could stand. It’s not a performance issue. Luke Wilson does a perfectly fine job with what he’s given as Delinko, but Tim Blake Nelson as Curly just has more to work with.

Really, none of the performances are bad. I can’t say any of the leads are particularly stand-out-awesome or anything, but I liked them. I liked them fine. Even if I couldn’t quite get over Clark Gregg (who played Agent Coulson in the Iron Man movies) as Muckle and finally had to tell myself he was just deep undercover. I wasn’t fond of the soundtrack, which seemed a little too forced at times, what with the musical interludes and montages, but let’s face it, Jimmy Buffett is a top-billed producer and had a larger-than-in-the-book role as the marine studies teacher. There were going to be songs sung. No escaping it. I know why the ending was made more confrontational and why events were sped up. It increases tension on screen to have action like that and everything start to happen all fast. On the page, it reads better spun out. I won’t speak to the realism of either version because they’re both pretty outrageous, but that’s how it goes.

It’s a pretty movie, with decent acting and a good message. It sticks close enough to the book to tell the same story while making it more appropriate for the screen. I could have done without the narrative voiceover – I can usually do without voiceovers, to be honest – but it’s not enough to make me condemn the movie. I’m not head over heels in love with it, but maybe if I’d seen it when I was in the right age range? I might have been. I can think of far, far worse adaptations of children’s books. The adaptation of The Westing Game, for example. If you get a hankering for a realistic fiction/action/mystery live action movie, appropriate for kids and based on a book? I’d endorse this one over a hell of a lot of the others that are out there right now (seriously, steer clear of Get a Clue).

July 14, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Hoot

July 14, 2010

Hoot

Amanda needed this movie for an event she’s holding at her library tomorrow, so she wanted to re-watch it before showing it to the kids. Naturally this means that we added it to our collection and we’re reviewing it tonight. I haven’t read the book this is based on, so I’ll leave the comparison to Amanda. In the mean time, how do I feel about the movie?

I’m not blown away. But then again, I am not the target demographic. The movie is very solidly positioned for a middle school crowd, and I don’t really know what appeals to the kids today (with their iPhones and their baggy pants…) I’m not fond of the heavy-handed voice overs that very explicitly describe the plot for the viewer. I’ve always felt that children are perfectly capable of reasoning things out for themselves. You don’t need to dumb things down quite so much. I’m also not too fond of the soft country soundtrack, but that’s more a matter of personal preference than anything else.

I do quite like Tim Blake Nelson as the put upon surveyor who can’t seem to catch the vandals who are for mysterious reasons wreaking havoc on his construction site every night. He’s doing pretty much the same country bumpkin he performed in O Brother Where Art Thou, but it’s such a fun performance that I don’t mind. Then there’s Luke Wilson as the painfully earnest officer Delinko, who’s out to catch the vandals. Of course both of them are really the supporting cast, since the real heroes of the movie are the kids.

The story here is that of young Roy Eberhardt, who is sick and tired of having to change schools as his dad moves constantly from state to state. His latest move is to Coconut Cove, Florida, a little coastal town that seems to be situates somewhere in the keys. When he arrives he is assaulted by a local bully, and intrigued by a mysterious boy who he spots running around town with no shoes. It transpires that the peculiar running boy is a homeless environmental activist who goes only by the moniker “Mullet Fingers.” Mullet, his badass step-sister Beatrice, and Roy all team up together to try and save a colony of protected burrowing owls that have their homes on a lot that is destined to become a pancake house.

I appreciate the somewhat overdone environmental message of protecting weak and endangered animals. And the whole “spirited youths overcome nasty bumbling adults” theme is always fun. But I just don’t know how I feel about the movie as a whole. To my eyes it seems like a blunt instrument. It feels too contrived and simplistic. But then again, I’m not ten or twelve years old. Maybe I would enjoy the movie a lot more if I were. Maybe I’d be all “Ha! Take that, stupid grown ups!” I know that I’d have very much enjoyed the character of Mullet Fingers, who lives all on his own with no school and no parents. He’s like an environmentally minded Pippi Longstocking.

I’m inclined to say I would probably have liked the book more, but as I said, I have no basis for comparison. I just feel like these larger than life characters might have been more believable on the page than they are realized in the flesh.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment