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Holes Parent Guide
Bad luck has dogged Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia LaBeouf) and his family ever since his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather (Damien Luvara) crossed a Latvian gypsy (Eartha Kitt) and brought a curse upon the male members of the clan.
Release date April 17, 2003
Run Time: 117 minutes
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The guide to our grades, parent movie review by kerry bennett.
So it’s no surprise when a pair of stolen track shoes falls from the sky and hits Stanley squarely on the head. Despite his plea of innocence, he is quickly charged with pinching the famous sneakers and shipped off to Camp Green Lake, a detention destination where nothing green or lake-like exists for miles around. There, in the searing summer heat, the detainees build character by digging holes in a dried up lake bed, day after day after day.
In the morning, the young offenders head out to work under the watchful eye of Mr. Sir (Jon Voight), a cranky supervisor who makes their time in the dirt as miserable as possible. He does, however, promise the boys the possibility of an afternoon off and extra shower tokens if they find anything special while digging.
With that in mind, Stanley begins to question the character-building component of their excavation work when a small metal item found in one of the holes brings their elusive female Warden (Sigourney Weaver) rushing out of her air-conditioned house and into the hot sun. Piecing together bits of local legend, he soon discovers the real reason behind the endless pits.
Adapting his award-winning novel, Holes, to a screenplay offered Louis Sachar a chance to be intimately involved in bringing his characters to life and in keeping the plot true to the book. Intertwining the lives of several generations of Yelnats with the Old West figures of Kissin’ Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette) and Sam, the onion man (Dule Hill), the author gives audiences an engaging story best suited for the 12 and up crowd.
Unless you’re familiar with the book, be warned there are several tense scenes involving poisonous reptiles and other moments of peril for the hero. As well, Kissin’ Kate, a rampaging outlaw with revenge on her mind, only plants her lip prints on her victims after she shoots them. The result is ample amounts of her screen time devoted to killings and lifeless bodies slumped over in coffins.
Although the ancestral curse thwarts Stanley and his dad (Henry Winkler) in every attempt at success, their never-give-up attitude grants them an innate ability to make the best of their constant misfortunes. It’s that knack of pulling diamonds out of dust bowls that makes Holes a gem of a movie worth digging around for.
Holes parents' guide.
Despite Stanleys string of bad luck, what was his attitude? How did that affect his actions at Camp Green Lake and his relationship with the other boys? Did it have an effect on the Yelnats family luck?
Gypsy curses aside, can a persons life decisions influence his/her family for generations to come?
Louis Sachars novel has been published in nearly 30 countries and may be worth a read before checking out the movie. Find out more about the author at www.kidsreads.com/authors/au-sachar-louis.asp .
The most recent home video release of Holes movie is September 22, 2003. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:.
Other adventurous novels adapted for the big screen are Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting , and James Gurney’s Dinotopia .
Related news about Holes
Celebrate International Literacy Day with One of These 25 Books that Made It to the Big Screen
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Holes | 2003 | PG | - 3.4.3
SEX/NUDITY 3 - A man and a woman kiss and hug romantically. A young man admires a young woman a few times. A female bandit kisses the people she kills (we see lipstick marks on their cheeks). A man tries to force a woman to kiss him, she pushes him away and runs. A boy says he thinks about how a girl looks in a bikini. A young woman wears tight-fitting, gauzy tops that reveal the outline of her breasts. A woman wears tight-fitting jeans and blouses that reveal cleavage throughout the movie. A woman's top falls partly open and her cleavage is exposed. A woman wears a short top that exposes her bare midriff. A man has a towel wrapped around his waist (we see his bare chest). We see boys in their underwear a few times and bare-chested in several scenes.
VIOLENCE/GORE 4 - A man is shot and killed; we see him slump down into his boat from a distance. A woman shoots a man (we see him with his head tipped backward). A woman grabs a lizard that bites her on the arm and we watch her die. A man talks about hanging an African-American man for kissing a white woman. A woman paints her nails with rattlesnake venom and scratches a man on the cheek; he falls on the floor quaking and moaning (we see him later with a very swollen and bruised face and two bloody cuts). A man and a woman hold guns on another woman. Men throw flaming torches into a schoolhouse and it burns. A man shoots past a boy at a lizard, he misses, the lizard charges toward the boy with fangs bared, jumps up, the man shoots again and the lizard is hit (we hear a "squish" and see a spurt of red). A boy hits a man in the face with a shovel (we see the man lying unconscious on the ground with bloody gashes across his cheek and nose). A man tries to force a woman to kiss him, she pushes him away and runs. A boy holds another boy in a headlock and then throws him to the ground. A boy is shoved and falls onto another boy who shoves him again and he falls on the floor, they scuffle briefly and other boys gather around to break it up. Two boys taunt, shove and punch each other and another boy jumps on the back of one, holding him around the neck until he is gasping for air. A boy steals a truck, drives away, a man grabs onto the window and is dragged, he falls off and the truck and crashes into a hole. A boy is shoved back onto a bench press bench and a weight is placed on his chest. A boy entices a rattlesnake to bite him; we see the snake lunge, hear the boy scream and hear that "he'll not be returning." We see two dead bodies lying near an overturned stagecoach in the desert. We see a donkey lying on the ground after a group of men have killed her (there are a couple of glistening patches that could be blood). We see a few photos of dead men in coffins. We see what we are told is a dead body covered by a blanket on the back of a cart. A boy loses his grip while climbing a mountain, he grabs onto a shovel handle held by another boy who holds the blade, and ends up with very bloody gashes on his hands. A large number of deadly lizards crawl onto two boys and they are very frightened. Two boys run into the desert (independently) and other people ruminate on their chances of survival. A man fires a gun into the air to get the attention of a group of boys. A boy talks about his mother disappearing. A police car chases a boy. A man falls into a hole, and a man is shoved against a wall. A pair of sneakers fall from a bridge and hit a boy walking below on the head. A man with a gun patrols a desert where boys are busily digging holes, and another man is wearing a gun on his belt. A man says to boys, "you'll die a slow and painful death." We hear several references and descriptions of buzzards eating people. People are verbally abusive and insulting to one boy throughout the movie. A fortuneteller threatens a young man with a curse on his family. Boys have bloody and blistered hands in a couple of scenes. We see a stagecoach tip over as it drives out of control. A scorpion crawls across a boy's pillow. The boys are served mushy, slimy slop in a few scenes. Two boys eat very old and discolored preserved peaches. A boy sees a man with a donkey and cart walking in the desert and they disappear as he passes by. A man experiments in his house trying to create a deodorizer for sneakers (people react to the smell in several scenes). We see a stained mattress. A boy vomits, rolls down an incline and appears ill. A boy flatulates, boys run away gasping when another boy raises his arms (he's apparently smelly), a man snorts and spits. Boys have descriptive nicknames like Barf Bag and Arm Pit.
LANGUAGE 3 - 5 scatological terms, 1 anatomical term, 6 mild obscenities, 7 religious exclamations and some abusive name calling.
SUBSTANCE USE - A man smokes.
DISCUSSION TOPICS - Punishment, innocence, family, greed, lying, curses, racism, destiny, interracial relationships, character, obsessions, fossils, snake oil remedies, illiteracy, homelessness, eviction, paranoia, paying dues.
MESSAGE - Often adventure and growth are found under unlikely and ostensibly dispiriting circumstances.
( Note: A man sells his daughter to a man for a pig.)
Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.
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THE ASSIGNED NUMBERS Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY , VIOLENCE/GORE & LANGUAGE on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest depending on quantity & context | more |
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You take a bad boy, make him dig holes all day long in the hot sun, it makes him a good boy. That's our philosophy here at Camp Green Lake. So says Mr. Sir, the overseer of a bizarre juvenile correction center that sits in the middle of the desert, surrounded by countless holes, each one 5 feet deep and 5 feet wide. It is the fate of the boys sentenced there to dig one hole a day, day after day; like Sisyphus, who was condemned to forever roll a rock to the top of a hill so that it could roll back down again, they are caught in a tragic loop.
"Holes," which tells their story, is a movie so strange that it escapes entirely from the family genre and moves into fantasy. Like " Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ," it has fearsome depths and secrets. Based on the much-honored young adult's novel by Louis Sachar , it has been given the top-shelf treatment: The director is Andrew Davis (" The Fugitive ") and the cast includes not only talented young stars but also weirdness from adults such as Jon Voight , Sigourney Weaver , Tim Blake Nelson and Patricia Arquette .
In a time when mainstream action is rigidly contained within formulas, maybe there's more freedom to be found in a young people's adventure. "Holes" jumps the rails, leaves all expectations behind, and tells a story that's not funny ha-ha but funny peculiar. I found it original and intriguing. It'll be a change after dumbed-down, one-level family stories, but a lot of kids in the upper grades will have read the book, and no doubt their younger brothers and sisters have had it explained to them. (If you doubt the novel's Harry Potter-like penetration into the youth culture, ask a seventh-grader who Armpit is.) The story involves Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia LaBeouf) as a good kid who gets charged with a crime through no fault of his own, and is shipped off to Camp Green Lake, which is little more than a desert bunkhouse surrounded by holes. There he meets his fellow prisoners and the ominous supervisory staff: Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) and Mr. Pendanski ( Tim Blake Nelson) report to The Warden (Sigourney Weaver), and both men are thoroughly intimidated by her. All three adult actors take their work seriously; they don't relax because this is a family movie, but create characters of dark comic menace. Voight's work is especially detailed; watch him spit in his hand to slick back his hair.
"Holes" involves no less than two flashback stories. We learn that young Stanley comes from a long line of Yelnatses (all named Stanley, because it is the last name spelled backward). From his father ( Henry Winkler ) and grandfather ( Nathan Davis ), he learns of an ancient family curse, traced back many generations to an angry fortune teller ( Eartha Kitt ; yes, Eartha Kitt). The other flashback explains the real reason that the Warden wants the boys to dig holes; it involves the buried treasure of a legendary bandit queen named Kissin' Kate Barlow (Arquette).
There is a link between these two back-stories, supplied by Zero ( Khleo Thomas ), who becomes Stanley's best friend and shares a harrowing adventure with him. Zero runs away, despite Mr. Sir's warning that there is no water for miles around, and when Stanley joins him, they stumble upon ancient clues and modern astonishments.
LaBeouf and Khleo Thomas are both new to me, although LaBoeuf is the star of a cable series, "Even Stevens." They carry the movie with an unforced conviction, and successfully avoid playing cute. As they wander in the desert and discover the keys to their past and present destinies, they develop a partnership, which, despite the fantastical material, seems like the real thing.
The whole movie generates a surprising conviction. No wonder young readers have embraced it so eagerly: It doesn't condescend, and it founds its story on recognizable human nature. There are all sorts of undercurrents, such as the edgy tension between the Warden and Mr. Sir, that add depth and intrigue; Voight and Weaver don't simply play caricatures.
Davis has always been a director with a strong visual sense, and the look of "Holes" has a noble, dusty loneliness. We feel we are actually in a limitless desert. The cinematographer, Stephen St . John, thinks big, and frames his shots for an epic feel that adds weight to the story. I walked in expecting a movie for thirteensomethings, and walked out feeling challenged and satisfied. Curious, how much more grown up and sophisticated "Holes" is than " Anger Management ."
Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.
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Rated PG For Violence, Mild Language and Some Thematic Elements.
Sigourney Weaver as The Warden
Jon Voight as Mr. Sir
Patricia Arquette as Kissin' Kate
Shia LaBeouf as Stanley
Tim Blake as Dr. Pendanski
Khleo Thomas as Nelson Zero
Jake M. Smith as Squid
Byron Cotton as Armpit
Brenden Jefferson as X-Ray
Henry Winkler as Stanley's Father
- Louis Sachar
- Andrew Davis
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2003, Kids & family/Adventure, 1h 58m
What to know
Faithful to its literary source, this is imaginative, intelligent family entertainment. Read critic reviews
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Where to watch holes.
Watch Holes with a subscription on Disney+, rent on Apple TV, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, or buy on Apple TV, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video.
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An award-winning bestseller comes to life when young Stanley Yelnats, dogged by bad luck stemming from an ancient family curse, is sent to Camp Green Lake, a very weird place that's not green and doesn't have a lake. Once there, he's thrown headlong into the adventure of his life when he and his colorful campmates—Squid, Armpit, Zigzag, Magnet, X-Ray and Zero—must dig a hole a day to keep the warden at bay. But why? Through it all, Stanley and company must forge fast friendships as they try to unearth the mystery of what's really going on in the middle of nowhere.
Rating: PG (Some Thematic Elements|Mild Language|Violence)
Genre: Kids & family, Adventure
Original Language: English
Director: Andrew Davis
Producer: Andrew Davis , Mike Medavoy , Lowell D. Blank , Teresa Tucker-Davies
Writer: Louis Sachar , Louis Sachar
Release Date (Theaters): Apr 18, 2003 wide
Release Date (Streaming): Dec 13, 2015
Box Office (Gross USA): $67.3M
Runtime: 1h 58m
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Production Co: Walden Media
Sound Mix: Dolby SR, DTS, Dolby Stereo, Surround, SDDS, Dolby A, Dolby EX, Dolby Digital
Aspect Ratio: Flat (1.85:1)
Cast & Crew
Tim Blake Nelson
Sam the Onion Man
Grandfather Stanley Yelnats II
Clyde "Sweet Feet" Livingston
Siobhan Fallon Hogan
Jake M. Smith
Lowell D. Blank
Marty P. Ewing
Stephen St. John
Aggie Guerard Rodgers
Thomas J. Nordberg
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Critic Reviews for Holes
Audience reviews for holes.
Kinda surprised that I waited over a decade before I watched this film. Not that it's a great film or anything, I may have thought it was better had I watched it closer to the actual time the film came out, but it is what it is. I will say, however, that the film is certainly not what I expected. Though, to be fair, I had no idea what the film was about prior to watching it. Like I knew the kids dug holes and everything, but everything surrounding that I had no knowledge of. But it plays out nicely and I do like how they incorporate flashbacks to tell the story of past Yelnats, Katherine Barlow and the current day Stanley, who's stuck at a detention camp, were they dig the holes everyday as a supposed character building exercise, for a crime he did not commit. At first the flashbacks were a little bit jarring because I literally had no idea what role they were meant to be play, so they were a little annoying because I'd have rather been watching the current Stanley doing his thing at the detention camp. At first I thought the flashbacks were simply filler and sometimes to give a bit of background into Stanley's family, but it turns out that it's all pretty much connected and absolutely necessary in order to tell the story the film wants to tell and how modern day Stanley redeems himself, and his family's name, for this curse that has been in their family for several generations now. With that said, I still don't think the film goes into great detail in any of the flashbacks, so what you get is essentially the really basic stuff necessary to have an understanding of what's going on. Don't get me wrong, it's good and I really like that sort of interconnected stuff where everything has a point and purpose into how the story ends up playing out, but the flashbacks themselves are still not that great, to be honest. The best parts of the film are still bak at the detention camp and seeing how Stanley finds his way in the camp and how he fits in to a group of boys that have already been there for a really long time. It, of course, starts off contentiously. But Stanley eventually starts earning their respect. You've seen it before. Though the highlight of the film would definitely be Stanley's friendship with Hector. It's not as sentimental as one would expect, so that's a good thing. The acting is actually really good, so no problems on that end. Strong cast top-to-bottom. Like I said, the film doesn't really go into as much detail into any of the stories, both flashbacks and modern, but I still think that this movie is quite good. It's funny and it's smart. That's not something that you can say about a lot of these types of films. Solid Netflix watch here.
Even though the movie is so strange that it cannot really be classed as a children's film anymore, it does not really appeal to adults either. And even though there are some really great characters in the story performed by a wonderful cast and it is directed aptly, it did very little for me.
I was apprehensive about watching Holes, but I am glad that I did. This film being the debut feature film of Shia LaBeouf in one of first big screen roles. I have to say that the film really impressed me, and I thought it was a very entertaining film that is perfect for the entire family. The cast do a great job in their parts and I really liked the plot of the movie overall. The film balances comedy, adventure and drama into one picture that is one of the best Disney films in the last ten years. This is a must see for viewers of all ages and it definitely is a well structured film that will keep you entertained for its two hour run time. The film has a terrific story that is supported by a varied cast of talented actors. LaBeouf is great here, and though he would be later so-so in the Transformers films, he displays some talent on-screen. This is a film that the whole family is sure to enjoy and it has something for everyone. Director Andrew Davis who also made the thrilling film The Fugitive directs this highly entertaining comedy adventure that is sure to delight film fans of all ages. Although there are some areas that could have improved upon, Holes is a terrific live action movie from Disney and it is a very entertaining film from start to finish. I was pleasantly surprised at the result of the film, and it is definitely one of the best most memorable family oriented comedies that I have seen. This is a truly unique film that if you come across it, you definitely shouldn't pass it up. Holes has it flaws, but is very good, solid and amusing. But above all, it has heart.
Definitely recommended to kids. I wanted more of the story with Sam and Kissin' Kate Barlow,so,since there is a book i'll search a piece of detail there...
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What to Watch - In theaters & streaming
- DVD & Streaming
- Drama , Kids
- Shia LaBeouf as Stanley Yelnats IV; Jon Voight as Mr. Sir; Tim Blake Nelson as Dr. Pendanski; Sigourney Weaver as The Warden; Khleo Thomas as Zero; Patricia Arquette as Kate; Dulé Hill as Sam; Brenden Jefferson as X-Ray; Byron Cotton as Armpit; Max Kasch as Zig-Zag; Miguel Castro as Magnet; Jake M. Smith as Squid; Henry Winkler as Stanley Yelnats III; Nathan Davis as Stanley Yelnats II
Home Release Date
- Andrew Davis
- Walt Disney
Five feet by five feet. These are the dimensions of Stanley Yelnats’ days. Every 24 hours he digs a hole that’s five feet in diameter and five feet deep in the barren, sun-scorched earth of Camp Green Lake, a “getaway” for juvenile delinquents. His pedantic counselor Dr. Pendanski and the sunflower seed-spitting enforcer Mr. Sir both tell him he’s digging holes to build his character. But Stanley doesn’t particularly need to have his character built since he was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. (Not surprising considering the Yelnats family’s century-old run of bad luck that began when a fortuneteller cursed Stanley’s no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.) So it’s understandable that he’s a bit skeptical about his overseers����� desire to make him a better member of society through manual labor. He and his fellow inmates—the aptly nicknamed X-Ray, Armpit, Zig-Zag, Magnet, Squid and Zero—are told that they’ll get a day off from work if they find something “interesting” while they’re digging. Something interesting enough to please the tough-as-nails Warden, that is.
It should be noted at this point that the powers-that-be at Camp Green Lake don’t really care about character. They’re looking for something and using their charges to find it. As time passes and Stanley ponders the mystery of what everyone’s searching for, a greater enigma begins to unfold. And that enigma is buried in a hole, coated in dust. It hasn’t rained for over 100 years at Camp Green Lake, not since a terrible atrocity turned Kissin’ Kate Barlow into an outlaw. …
positive elements: Buried in Holes is a hefty cache of worthwhile themes, but most of them are handled descriptively rather than overtly. Bullying gets denounced when Stanley is seen being poked, prodded, pushed and scorned by his “friends” at Camp Green Lake. True friendship is lauded when Stanley takes the universally avoided Zero under his wing, teaching the socially unengaged half-pint to read and ultimately saving his life. Irrational prejudice is decried when the film shows a violent social upheaval that boils up after Kate Barlow shares a kiss with Sam, an African-American onion dealer. The nature of real justice is displayed by showing its opposite in the sanctimonious yet hypocritical Pendanski, the cruel Mr. Sir and the dictatorial Warden. The love of family, insufficiency of surface beauty, need for perseverance, all-consuming nature of greed and necessity of getting a good education receive equally positive and subtle emphasis. A note to parents: While subtlety sometimes makes for engaging viewing, it also make it easier to wrongly interpret or miss the point entirely. Consider a pre- and post- Holes family chat if you choose to indulge.
spiritual content: A couple of Biblical allusions pop up (mainly a reference to the Flood and a landmark called God’s Thumb). But its the nebulous concept of “destiny” provides the film’s spiritual framework. Stanley’s grandfather, also named Stanley (Stanley is “Yelnats” backwards), claims that the men in his family are hexed “always and forever” because Stanley’s great-great-grandfather broke a promise he made to a fortuneteller. The claim isn’t entirely true since (without giving too much away) the so-called curse doesn’t last “always and forever.” What viewers learn is that an impersonal force is seeking to right wrongs and rectify injustices in the Yelnats family and elsewhere. If Holes had substituted God for Destiny, it wouldn’t be problematic. As it stands, the spirituality of the movie is misleading, but not heavy-handed. It may serve as a platform for parents to remind their children that the self-existent and very personal Yahweh is the one who sets the outcome of human lives, not fate or destiny (read Romans 8:28, Ephesians 1:11, Job 42:2).
nudity and sexual content: Stanley briefly appears in his underwear while changing into his Camp Green Lake regulation jumpsuit. A scoundrel leers at a woman who makes spiced fruit, commenting that he enjoys “peaches.” Stanley becomes nervous about showering once he discovers that the Warden has miniature cameras hidden all over the camp (a number of boys make crude jokes about the spying). After seeing the words “Mary Lou” emblazoned on a boat, Stanley jokes that she must have looked great in a bikini (an ironic comment since Mary Lou is a donkey).
violence and gore: The opening scene shows a “camper” allowing himself to be bitten by a rattlesnake in order to escape (the bite is masked by a succession of quick camera cuts). Stanley gets knocked to the ground by a pair of shoes that fall from the sky. He’s regularly shoved and bullied by his fellow campers. Gunplay is integral to the Kissin’ Kate Barlow mythos, but clever camera work and editing shield viewers from explicit violence. Elsewhere, a man is shot, but he’s seen from a great distance. Stanley’s hands blister and bleed as he digs his first hole. Mr. Sir blasts a virulent yellow-spotted lizard with his revolver and audiences catch a quick glimpse of its corpse. An insane woman allows one of the toxic critters to bite her (she’d rather die than tell a secret to a rifle-wielding thug). Campers find themselves trapped in a hole by scores of the lethal beasties. The film’s most intense moment comes when the angry Warden scratches Mr. Sir on the face after applying a fresh coat of venom-infused fingernail polish. The poison causes him to writhe on the ground in agony and leaves his face puffy and discolored. Zero hits a mocking Dr. Pendanski in the face with a shovel. Later he cuts his hands while helping Stanley up a cliff. A violent mob storms through a town and sets a schoolhouse on fire. Stanley drives a truck into a hole.
crude or profane language: Unfortunately, God’s name is abused almost 10 times. About half a dozen mild profanities (“d–n” and “h—“) crop up. Crudities and put-downs such as “schmuck,” “jacka–,” “cow turd,” “fart” and “Neanderthal” turn up, “crap” being the most common.
drug and alcohol content: A recovering nicotine addict, Mr. Sir eats sunflower seeds to keep from smoking (by the end of the movie he’s reverted to the old habit). A number of unsavory characters drink. A fortuneteller puffs on a pipe.
other negative elements: Stanley sleeps on a stained cot (its previous occupant was nicknamed Barf Bag). Armpit suffers from horrible body odor and flatulence. After eating fermented food in order to stay alive in the desert, Zero vomits. Stanley lies in his letters about the great time he’s having at camp so that his mother won’t worry. He also lies to keep other campers from getting in trouble when they steal Mr. Sir’s sunflower seeds. Stanley steals a truck to go save Zero when he’s stranded in the desert.
conclusion: With its striking cinematography, vivid character development, complex plot and deft treatment of universal human themes, Holes is a much deeper film than its “ Home Alone 6: Danger in the Desert ” promotional campaign indicates. Originally a novel, the story won a Newberry Award in 1999 for excellence in children’s literature. And unlike many book-to-film conversions, this movie maintains the book’s distinction. It didn’t hurt that author Louis Sachar penned the screenplay.
Every family considering diving into Holes will have to grapple with whether or not the film’s occasional crudity, violent scenes and misuses of the Lord’s name push it out of bounds. But this movie presents another dilemma of sorts. Holes doesn’t quickly fill in all the questions it unearths. Was the curse on the Yelnats family genuine or merely a quirk of fate? Should we sympathize with the heartbroken Kissin’ Kate Barlow or decry her murderous thievery? How much does the perseverance of Stanley’s dad contribute to his success as an inventor and how much of it is the machinations of destiny? This descriptive film offers such forthright commentary only occasionally, letting viewers work to make the various ethical connections. “I never set out to teach a lesson,” says Sachar. “My goal [has] always [been] to write a fun, entertaining and thought-provoking story. Any messages, and I think there are many in [the] book, come naturally out of the story.” The same holds true for the movie and that’s good or bad depending on how you look at it. Those who want a neat and tidy moral lesson free of loose ends will be frustrated by the movie’s seeming lack of clarity. Parents looking for a well-crafted cinematic tale with lots to talk about afterwards will consider it a treasure trove.
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Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Lang. Themes.)
This topic contains:
- overall comments and recommendations
- details of classification and consumer advice lines for Holes
- a review of Holes completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 September 2003 .
Overall comments and recommendations
About the movie.
This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.
This review of the movie contains the following information:
- a synopsis of the story
- use of violence
- material that may scare or disturb children
- sexual references
- nudity and sexual activity
- use of substances
- coarse language
- the movie’s message
A synopsis of the story
Stanley Yelnats is in the wrong place at the wrong time: a pair of runners apparently falls out of the sky into his hands. The shoes belong to Livingston, a famous basketballer, who had donated them to a charity auction. Stanley is caught by the police and sent to Camp Green Lake, a detention centre for troubled youth. Camp Green Lake is nothing like the name sounds – it’s in the middle of a desert with no water for miles around. The ‘inmates’ all have nicknames and they set out to intimidate and bully Stanley. Stanley befriends a young boy called Zero who won’t speak to anyone but talks to Stanley. The boys spend their days digging holes in the hot sun ostensibly to ‘build their character’. Stanley believes he is there because of a curse imposed on his great, great, grandfather which brings bad luck to the family, although he says he doesn’t believe in the curse. The curse was put on him by a Madame Zeroni who turns out to be Zero’s great, great, grandmother.
The story is quite complex and frequently travels back and forwards in time. Green Lake was originally a thriving town with a large inland lake. The local white school teacher, Kate Barlow, fell in love with a black man, Sam, which was considered to be an unforgivable crime. Sam is shot and killed for this liaison and Kate becomes ‘Kissin’ Kate Barlow’ an outlaw thief and killer who leaves her identifying mark as a kiss on her victims. The lake dries up and it hasn’t rained there since that day.
The plot continues to weave and unfold and eventually it becomes clear why the boys are digging holes in the desert all day long. Zero, whose real name is Hector, escapes from the camp and Stanley goes out to find him. Together they unravel all the clues and manage to reverse the curse on both Stanley’s family and Green Lake.
Use of violence info
Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.
Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.
There is quite a lot of pushing, shoving, intimidation and bullying at Camp Green Lake, as well as other violence in this film including the following scenes:
- Theodore grabs Stanley by the neck and throws him to the ground
- Mr. Sir shoots a Yellow Spotted Lizard
- Sam is shot by townsmen
- Kate Barlow shoots and kills the sheriff, holds up the banks, etc.
- Mr. Sir grabs Zero by the throat and throws him to the ground
- The warden hits Mr. Sir across the face with her nails which are coated in snake venom
- Stanley gets into a fight with the other boys; Zero comes to his aid and nearly strangles Ricky
- Zero hits the doctor with a shovel
Material that may scare or disturb children
Under five info.
Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.
There are quite a few scary scenes in this movie. In addition to the above violent scenes, the following scenes would scare children in this age group:
- a rattle snake strikes and kills a man.
- Mr. Sir is a rough looking evil character.
- Mr. Sir tells Stanley that if he tries to escape, the buzzards will eat his bones and that if he gets bitten by a Yellow Spotted Lizard he will die a slow and painful death.
- Camp Green Lake is a filthy place, with slops for food and stained bed mattresses.
- The boys having to dig holes all day in the hot sun with little water.
- Madame Zeroni is a gypsy type of woman who appears quite scary especially when she says that the Yelnats family will be cursed for all eternity if they don’t do what she says.
- Mr. Sir shoots a Yellow Spotted Lizard which then frills its neck out and screeches frighteningly.
- Zero’s Mother would leave him sitting on a park bench while she worked and one day she doesn’t come back for him. Zero is abandoned and has no idea where his Mother is.
- Stanley and Zero find the treasure but are then covered in Yellow Spotted Lizards who crawl out of the hole.
Aged five to eight info
Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.
Children in this age group may also be frightened or disturbed by the scenes mentioned above.
Aged eight to thirteen info
Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.
Some of the above scenes would scare children in this age group as the danger and violence is quite realistic.
Thirteen and over info
Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.
Children in this age group should be able to cope with the level of violence in this movie.
None of concern.
Nudity and sexual activity
Use of substances.
Mr. Sir and Madame Zeroni smoke. There is some drinking of alcohol.
In a nutshell.
The take home message in this movie is that justice will eventually prevail and that good triumphs over evil.
Values parents may wish to encourage include:
- endurance through adversity
- racial harmony
Values parents may wish to discourage include:
- becoming famous by being an outlaw
- racial intolerance
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About our colour guide.
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FILM REVIEW; Not Just for Children, a Suspenseful Allegory of Greed, Fate and Racism
By A. O. Scott
- April 18, 2003
Louis Sachar's 1998 novel ''Holes,'' which among other prizes has won a Newbery Medal and a National Book Award, has also, and more important, attracted a fanatical following among children in the middle grades. Since these tend to be the most passionate and also the pickiest members of the reading public, their fierce regard for Mr. Sachar's book should not be taken lightly.
Any adult who has read ''Holes'' -- and I suspect there are quite a few, not all of them the parents or teachers of sixth graders -- will immediately see the sources of its appeal. There is a clear moral scheme balanced by morally complex characters, irreverent humor combined with earnest emotion and, most of all, enough plot to satisfy the addiction to narrative that affects so many of our youth today.
The central story -- of a boy named Stanley Yelnats, unjustly sent to a camp for delinquents for stealing a pair of baseball cleats -- sprouts wild tendrils of invention that reach from the Old Country (in this case, Latvia) to the Old West. Their elegant, suspenseful resolution makes this novel a masterpiece of juvenile magic realism.
As abundant as its pleasures are, ''Holes'' is equally notable for what it lacks: the icky sentiment and cynical condescension that mark too many efforts to turn the intelligence and curiosity of young people into a source of profit. Since Hollywood often specializes in sentimentality and cynicism (to say nothing of profit), the movie of ''Holes,'' which opens nationwide today, might be met with apprehension by some of the book's fans. Not to worry. Mr. Sachar, who wrote the screenplay, has betrayed neither his own imagination nor that of his audience. The director, Andrew Davis (''The Fugitive''), has turned the book's spare, gritty allegory into a shaggy-dog saga that is sometimes hectic but always surprising and never easy, predictable or false.
Young Stanley (Shia LaBeouf), is plucked from his family's chaotic apartment, where his father (Henry Winkler) is trying to invent an antidote for foot odor, and sent off to Camp Green Lake. Under the sinister eye of Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) and the two-faced tutelage of a staff member, Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson), whom the boys sarcastically call Mom, the young inmates are assigned the task of digging holes, one after another, in the desert. The stated goal of this backbreaking Sisyphean labor is to build character, but it also seems that the warden (Sigourney Weaver) is using the boys to find some mysterious, precious treasure that she believes is buried in the sand.
The tough, prickly camaraderie among the boys and their solidarity in the face of adult cruelty give the picture its heart and also its pedigree, which includes movies like ''Stalag 17,'' ''The Great Escape,'' ''Cool Hand Luke'' and, more recently, ''Chicken Run.'' The weaselly Mr. Nelson, the growly, strutting Mr. Voight and the chilly, feline Ms. Weaver form a fine menagerie of grown-up corruption.
The younger actors are appropriately boisterous and appealing. Mr. LaBeouf, with his soft face and curly hair, rises to the challenge of depicting a coddled, sensitive young man who must prove his toughness without sacrificing his decency. Both qualities are tested by the other boys and also by Stanley's growing friendship with an especially troubled camp mate, a feral, runty child with the nickname Zero.
To offset the dusty bleakness of Camp Green Lake, a place beset by rattlesnakes and poisonous lizards, ''Holes'' conjures up storybook landscapes and subplots, which at first glance seem weirdly digressive. There is the matter of the Yelnats family curse, which has dogged four generations of Stanleys after being applied, back in Latvia, by Madame Zeroni (Eartha Kitt).
Then there is the legend of Kate Barlow (Patricia Arquette), a 19th-century kissing bandit who harassed travelers near the present-day site of the camp. The connections between past and present emerge slowly; as the campers dig their literal holes, the movie quietly fills in the narrative holes and along the way uncovers some hard, substantial themes like greed, fate and the legacy of racism.
And it deals with these themes more honestly and with more respect for the audience's intelligence than most movies aimed at supposed grown-ups. The interracial romance that is, along with the Yelnats curse, the kernel of all that follows is treated with neither the skittishness nor the sensationalism that still characterize so many studio pictures. Perhaps the current generation of 10-year-olds has outgrown the hypocrisy and squeamishness of its forebears.
In any case, Mr. Sachar's young devotees will be gratified that ''Holes'' shows such fidelity to its source. But unlike, say, the ''Harry Potter'' films, Mr. Davis's movie has a brash, confident identity of its own. You spend much of it in a state of flashlight-under-the-covers breathlessness, wondering what on earth will happen next and what Stanley's unhappy predicament has to do with an ancient curse or the sad fate of a late-19th-century Texas onion peddler (Dulé Hill).
''Holes'' is one of the few recent movies I have seen that plunged me into that rare, giddy state of pleasurable confusion, of not knowing what would happen next, which I associate with the reading and moviegoing experiences of my own childhood. But there is no reason that children should have a monopoly on this primal, wonderful experience.
Yes, ''Holes'' is certainly the thing that schoolchildren will drag their parents to see on spring-break afternoons, but the parents who are dragged will find themselves watching the best film released by a major American studio so far this year.
''Holes'' is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). It has some violent scenes and very mild profanity.
Directed by Andrew Davis; written by Louis Sachar, based on his novel; produced by Mike Medavoy, Teresa Tucker-Davies and Lowell Blank and Mr. Davis; Stephen St. John, director of photography; edited by Tom Nordberg and Jeffrey Wolf; music by Joel McNeely; Maher Ahmad, production designer. Released by Walt Disney Pictures. Running time: 117 minutes. This film is rated PG.
WITH: Sigourney Weaver (the Warden), Jon Voight (Mr. Sir), Tim Blake Nelson (Dr. Pendanski), Shia LaBeouf (Stanley), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Stanley's Mother), Henry Winkler (Stanley's Father), Eartha Kitt (Madame Zeroni), Dulé Hill (Sam), Khleo Thomas (Zero) and Patricia Arquette (Kate Barlow).
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"Holes" - Movie Review
- Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
- Published Apr 18, 2003
Rating: PG (for violence, mild language and some thematic elements)
Release Date: April 18, 2003
Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette, Shia LaBeouf, Tim Blake Nelson, Khleo Thomas, Jacob Smith, Byron Cotton, Brenden Jefferson, Miguel Castro, Siobhan Fallon, Max Kasch, Henry Winkler, Nathan Davis, Scott Plank
Director: Andrew Davis
Special Notes: To ensure that the film remained faithful to its literary roots, "Holes" author Louis Sachar wrote the screenplay and was on the set every day of production. Accompanying the release of "Holes" is an Educator's Guide (with bonus lesson plans for the classroom) available for free download at www.holes.com . Look for the "Educator's Dig Deeper!" shovel icon.
Good: Hurray for an incredible story that intelligently weaves together the weaknesses and self-doubts all of us have and fills those holes with a powerful life-changing message. "Holes" will capture the hearts of all ages with its incredible cast of interesting characters and timeless tale of adventure. In fact, this is the kind of movie that will make kids want to read the book! Louis Sachar adapted his Newbery Award-winning book for the big screen, skillfully weaving modern day Texas with 18th century Latvia and the Old West. There are wonderful elements to this story that all ages will enjoy: adventure, mystery, suspense, scary lizards, friendship, loyalty, a treasure and learning to read for the first time. There are important themes parents can discuss with their children or young teens and lots of issues such as friends accepting friends for who they are, the importance of supporting family, racial bias that leads to a man's death, robbing banks, murder, supporting family no matter what they do, the importance of telling the truth, family heritage, and more. I'm convinced all ages will dig "Holes." In fact, I took my 16 year-old son, and he loved it! Clearly it's not just a kid's movie because adults will like it too!"
Bottom Line: I loved this movie because it has everything -- adventure, a clever story, interesting characters and treasure! In fact, I bet every kid dreams of the kind of adventure "Holes" delivers. So go see this movie!
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'Holes' Review: Forced Labor Never Looked This Fun
As Collider looks back at classic films, a first-time watcher reviews ‘Holes,’ Disney’s wacky comedy starring Shia LaBeouf and Sigourney Weaver.
Based on the book of the same name by Louis Sachar , who also penned the script, Holes is a rare family movie with something for everyone. Mixing slapstick comedy with dark explorations of racism in the US, Andrew Davis ' cult movie is an unexpected story that’s part neo-Western, part prison break, and a whole lot of fun. In addition, one could think forced labor would be a touchy subject, but here is Holes , making a wacky family-friendly adventure out of it.
RELATED: The Best Children & Family Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney has made strange movies in more than one hundred years of history. Still, Holes might take the prize for the wildest story ever coming from the House of the Mouse. This is a family film that opens with a suicide attempt. Less than five minutes later, we meet Henry Winkler playing a kooky inventor determined to find a cure for smelly feet. That's not the end of it, as we soon get a close shot at a mattress stained with teenage fluids. And let's not forget the entire movie is about a forced labor camp for teenagers. And that's just in one of the three intertwined storylines of Holes , which also finds a way to include ancient curses, arranged marriages, and Wild West thieves. To say this movie is weird would be an understatement. And yet, it works somehow.
While adapting a novel into a film is always challenging , Sachar knew the story inside out, being the author of the Holes novel. As a result, nothing goes to waste in Disney’s Holes , as every minor plot element will be tied up elegantly right before the credits roll. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much in common between a fortune-teller in Latvia and the brutal prison system in Texas, but Sachar still creates meaningful connections essential to telling Holes ’ story.
Of course, something always gets lost in translations, and the constant dives back to the past hurt the movie’s pacing. That’s even more true because some of these flashbacks won’t be important to the main plot until we reach the final half-hour of Holes . As such, viewers might wonder why we are making detours through stories that seem unrelated to the labor camp where the main plot unfolds. Even so, we are pattern-seeking animals, and it just feels good watching all the pieces fall into place to form a beautiful figure with absolutely nothing missing. It’s curious that the movie is called Holes because the narrative structure is all about how different storylines can fill the gaps of each other, showing how we are all connected by fate, fortune, and family affairs.
While Sachar’s script is a wonder without plot holes or unused elements, Holes still works after two decades because this is one of the best-acted family films ever. Even though most of the cast comprises teenagers with little acting experience, everyone is on top of their game. Each convict in Green Lake Camp has their own story, and it’s fantastic that Holes gives them enough time to tell them, adding emotional layers and singularities to what would otherwise be a bland and uniform group. Of course, the stars of the show Shia LaBeouf ’s Stanley and Khleo Thomas ’ Hector, whose journey exposes the failures of a prison system based on punishment and dissent to reintegrate individuals who committed crimes. Instead, Stanley and Hector will learn how mutual support is the only way to find true freedom.
There’s some praise to be given to the adult cast too. As always, Sigourney Weaver turns everything she touches into gold. And in the case of Weavers’ malicious Warden, she manages to let the woman’s desperation slip through the cracks of her hard shell, proving that even the most despicable villains are also victims of the circumstances. This philosophy pervades every second of Holes , which turns out to be a lot more complex than one could imagine. While family-friendly movies tend to give heroes and villains clear moral compasses pointing in opposite directions, Holes is concerned with fleshing out every single character, exposing their flaws, and showing that what makes people good is how they decide to deal with their own mistakes.
It’s been twenty years since Holes hit theaters, but it was ahead of its time. Every scene of Holes is risky since it avoids easy answers and exposes some uncomfortable truths about the justice system. So, it’s easy to understand why executives might be scared to try out something so bold in the current political climate. Still, the fact that Holes managed to do everything it does while still appealing to children proves we shouldn’t underestimate the younger members of the family, even more since complex stories can also catch adults’ attention.
Holes is currently available on Disney+.
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Slotherhouse, common sense media reviewers.
Horror-comedy has gruesome scenes, drinking, cursing.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The importance of leaving wild animals in their na
Emily learns that she has nothing to gain from giv
Most of the ensemble are White women with traditio
Despite most of the darkly funny violence being at
Two men and a woman appear in a hot tub wearing ba
One use each of "s--t," "a--hole," "s--t," "bitch,
College-aged women drink martinis and different un
Parents need to know that Slotherhouse is a 2023 comedic horror film. Although most of the darkly funny violence is committed by an adorable sloth, the film features plenty of bloody scenes in which the sloth's victims are often clawed to death. The sloth also drugs a young woman and tries to manipulate…
The importance of leaving wild animals in their natural habitat. Teamwork helps when dealing with a crisis. Resilience under chaotic circumstances. Not judging others by their appearance and social media followers.
Positive Role Models
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Violence & Scariness
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two men and a woman appear in a hot tub wearing bathing suits. A young woman and a young man kiss.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
College-aged women drink martinis and different unnamed alcoholic drinks at a party. A middle-aged woman is always shown drunk or holding a drink. The sloth drugs a young woman by putting unidentified pills in her drink.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Slotherhouse is a 2023 comedic horror film. Although most of the darkly funny violence is committed by an adorable sloth, the film features plenty of bloody scenes in which the sloth's victims are often clawed to death. The sloth also drugs a young woman and tries to manipulate machinery in a hospital room. Poachers are seen carrying shotguns with tranquilizers. A dead alligator with visible claw marks floats on a river. A young woman shoots the sloth with a gun, and another one tries to kill it with a sword. Strong language includes one use each of "s--t," "a--hole," "s--t," "bitch," "hell," and the nuts emoji is used to make reference to a man's testicles. Two men and a woman in bathing suits appear in a hot tub, and a young woman and a man kiss. College-aged men and women drink martinis and other unidentified alcoholic beverages at a party. A middle-aged woman is always shown drunk or holding a drink. Most of the ensemble is comprised of attractive White women. Lisa Ambalavanar, who plays the lead character Emily, is British of Sri Lankan descent. Zenny (Bianca Beckles-Rose) is coded as queer through their clothes, but she is mostly used as comedic relief. Positive messages include the importance of teamwork, animal habitat conservation, and that real friends are more important than social media followers. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .
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- Parents say (1)
- Kids say (2)
Based on 1 parent review
Way too violent for 13 year olds
What's the story, is it any good, talk to your kids about ....
The sloth is poached from the jungle of Panama. Take a look at the biodiversity of the region; which flowers and animals would you like to see if you travel there someday?
Emily is obsessed with her social media presence. Why are your real friends more important than the number of social media followers you have?
- On DVD or streaming : September 19, 2023
- Cast : Lisa Ambalavanar , Sydney Craven , Bianca Beckles-Rose , Andrew Horton
- Director : Matthew Goodhue
- Studio : Gravitas Ventures
- Genre : Horror
- Run time : 93 minutes
- MPAA rating : PG-13
- MPAA explanation : violence, bloody images and language
- Last updated : October 14, 2023
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After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts - the birthplace of the infamous holiday. After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts - the birthplace of the infamous holiday. After a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorizes Plymouth, Massachusetts - the birthplace of the infamous holiday.
- Jeff Rendell
- Rick Hoffman
- Gina Gershon
- Patrick Dempsey
- 3 User reviews
- See production info at IMDbPro
- Sheriff Newlon
- McCarty's Dad
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Holiday Horrors to Stream This Season
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Did you know
- Trivia Based on the mock-trailer from Grindhouse (2007). Eli Roth directed the Thanksgiving trailer to be shown between the films Planet Terror and Death Proof when shown as a double feature.
Father : Thanksgiving is a time for appreciation. To celebrate with the ones that we love the most. And a time for all families to be together. Let's eat.
- Connections Referenced in Grindhouse (2007)
User reviews 3
- Nov 10, 2023
- How long will Thanksgiving be? Powered by Alexa
- November 17, 2023 (United States)
- United States
- Bloody Thanksgiving
- Port Perry, Ontario, Canada
- Cream Productions
- Ethereal Visage Productions
- Spyglass Media Group
- See more company credits at IMDbPro
- Runtime 1 hour 47 minutes
- Dolby Digital
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'The Marvels' is a reminder that Marvel Studios can still make fun movies
Despite whatever negative press you may have seen about the Marvel franchise recently, its latest film, “The Marvels,” is no flop. While there are parts that are too thin and a few mystifying plot holes, the movie more than makes up for them with an irreverent and joyful story about found family that features truly wonderful chemistry between its three leading women.
On paper, this is ridiculous. But thankfully, you can still enjoy this movie even without a superhero flowchart.
Fifteen years and what feels like 100 movies after the birth of Marvel’s on-screen franchise in 2008, this soap opera “universe” of interconnected movies and shows has become so complicated, it’s easy to get lost. Over the course of a speedy 1 hour, 45 minutes, “The Marvels” folds in plotlines from no fewer than six feature films going back to 2018, and at least five Disney+ shows from the past three years, all culminating in a throwback scene echoing the original “Iron Man.” On paper, this is ridiculous. But thankfully, you can still enjoy this movie even without a superhero flowchart.
Here’s what you need to know: Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is an all-powerful superhero, and the women who look up to her — estranged adopted niece Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and fangirl Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) — have a lot of feelings about her seeming invincibility. Everything else is window dressing.
Enter the evil ruler of the Kree (played by Zawe Ashton), who causes the trio to start switching places. This mechanism humanizes Captain Marvel and proves she is far from perfect. The swapping also forces Carol to realize that having a team that can check her when she goes too far is invaluable. Turns out outside perspective is a superpower she lacks.
The fact that this is a three-generation story is one big reason “The Marvels” works as well as it does. Despite the ageless appearance of Larson’s character, she adeptly conveys the extreme depth of her experiences through space and time (and a few marriages along the way). Parris was underused in her Marvel debut, the Disney+ TV show “WandaVision,” something this film rectifies. But Vellani, who was a breakout star in her own “Ms. Marvel” series in 2022, steals every scene she’s in here. Also, her “underage superhero” status means she requires chaperoning, turning “The Marvels” into a genuine family adventure, a true rarity in this genre. (Though this movie was filmed months ago, having a loving, positive portrayal of Muslim families take center stage in a mainstream box office hit right now is a tremendous bonus.)
The film’s conceit of having the three heroes continually switch places in the midst of battle scenes also greatly improves on Marvel’s increasingly bogged-down fight sequences. Because the characters keep flipping places, at first accidentally, and then as they work together more and more deliberately, the fights are kept visually clean and tight, so that audiences know exactly who is fighting whom, where and when. (And which one has Goose the Cat as a secret weapon.)
The fact that this is a three-generation story is one big reason “The Marvels” works as well as it does.
Did I mention Goose the Cat is in this film? And that, apparently, Captain Marvel has never watched “The Price Is Right” and learned the importance of spaying and neutering your pets? Please, people, always spay and neuter your pets, even if they are flerken . This has been a public service announcement.
Marvel’s recent struggles, especially in contrast to its golden first decade, have been mostly self-inflicted. Films like “Eternals” and “Ant-Man 3,” or shows like “Secret Invasion,” have tried to chase awards glory or add too much dramatic weight to flimsy stories. “The Marvels” is a reminder that when Marvel Studios does what it originally set out to do — make entertaining, lighthearted, fast-paced superhero films that appeal to fans and interconnect just enough — it makes great movies. And that, at the end of the day, is enough.
Ani Bundel is a cultural critic who has been writing regularly since 2010. Her work can also be found at Elite Daily and WETA's Telly Visions, where she also co-hosts "Telly Visions: The Podcast."