Back Shelf Beauties
by Willie Waffle

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The theme of Hoot is YAY NATURE and BOO DEVELOPMENT BY BIG EVIL CORPORATE ENTITIES, but writer/director Wil Shriner gets so wrapped up in hugging the trees and kissing spotted owls that he forgets to put together an interesting movie that we can enjoy for more than its agenda.

Logan Lerman stars as Roy Eberhardt - a young man forced to move from town to town due to his father's constantly changing assignments as an agent for the U.S. Department of Justice. The family had to pick up and move from Roy's beloved, mountainous, beautiful Montana to head off to the swamplands and humidity of Florida (not as enjoyable as the swamps of Jersey, nor as lyrically inspiring), and the transition is not going well. In the space of a few days, Roy has made enemies with the school bully, Dana (Eric Phillips); become obsessed with finding the identity of a strange barefooted boy (Cody Linley); earned the ire of the school's toughest girl, Beatrice (Brie Larson); and discovered who has been interfering with development of a new Mother Paula's Pancake restaurant and why.

Will Roy be able to help these mysterious protestors/eco-terrorists before the construction at Mother Paula's hurts some of the most vulnerable members of the area's eco-system?

I guess Shriner is hoping the movie's pro-environmental theme, a few tunes by Jimmy Buffett and its origins as a lauded, Newberry-award winning novel will cover up its flaws, but Hoot has too many flaws to ignore. Based on the novel by Carl Hiaasen, Hoot sets up an extreme strawman argument to get kids to rally to the side of Roy and his buddies by eschewing any complexity or validity to the opposing side, which takes away from any tension or drama the movie might have.

Each of the adults working for Mother Paula has the IQ of a tree stump as we watch the slapstick, idiotic antics of the construction manager, Curly (Tim Blake Nelson), and a power hungry, Type-A personality hell bent on his own glory, Muckle (Clark Gregg) - the Mother Paula regional rep overseeing the project. Shriner pushes each actor to be as completely moronic and unrealistic as possible, which is offensive to any member of the audience with a brain. Even our helpful, likable policeman, Officer Delinko (Luke "What the heck am I doing in this movie when Will Ferrell, my brother Owen and Jack Black all have good comedies coming out this summer?" Wilson) is a doofus.

Then, just in case you might believe in development and business, Shriner puts in some plot twists to ensure everyone would be on the side of the environmentalists, but the actions by the company executives are so extreme and overt these events could never happen in real life because big corporations are much more subtle and devious in their deceptions (except for Enron, but they got caught). Younger and more unsophisticated kids may appreciate this black and white world, but teens and adults will see it as silly and unrealistic.

Worst of all, like Stick It, Hoot plays out like some 13-year old kid's fantasy complete with infantile dialogue. One of the movie's heroes is a homeless, runaway eco-terrorist who is squatting illegally in an abandoned boat (by the way, this "nature" boy is a hypocrite with the worst bleach blonde job you have ever seen, he should just let it be and embrace his natural black roots, or remember to color his eyebrows next time). Then, the kids feel they have to take care of everything themselves without turning to adults for help. I don't know about you, but this is the kind of mentality that leads 14-year old girls to meet dirty old perverts online, so why make a movie for kids that shows all of the adults as being out of touch and unreceptive to their concerns?

Finally, I have to take off points for the movie's use of the WORST cover version of Werewolves of London that you will ever hear in your entire life. Warren Zevon is rolling over in his grave, and I'm ready to file a defamation of song lawsuit just to preserve his memory (if only that was a real legal argument, it might have stopped Jessica Simpson from destroying These Boots Are Made For Walking, or Sheryl Crow from doing Sweet Child O' Mine. I bet the thought of those two recordings just made you wretch).

I like the environment as much as the next guy, and Hoot's (bleeding) heart is in the right place, but the story needs more than heart to win us over.

1 Waffle (Out Of 4)

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