Fans of Carl Hiaasen’s best-selling 2003 Newbery Honor-winning kidlit novel will be happy to know that the book has been reincarnated as a funny, thoughtful, and caring film by Walden Media and New Line Cinema to be released on May 5th.
When the Eberhardt family moves from the gorgeous mountains of Montana to the flat terrain of Florida’s gulf coast because of his dad’s government job, ninth-grader Roy (Logan Lerman, The Patriot, Jack & Bobby) has to adapt once again. As bully Dana Matherson (Eric Philipps) torments him on the bus his first day of school, Roy is mesmerized by the sight of a wild-looking boy running barefoot as if racing the wind. He soon disappears from sight. Roy gets kicked off the bus for defending himself against Dana and follows the mysterious boy.
Roy encounters the boy but only finds out his name from a tough, athletic soccer player named Beatrice (Brie Larson; 13 Going on 30). Beatrice warns Roy off of his search for the elusive young man but she tells Roy his name: Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley; Cheaper by the Dozen) because he can catch the fish so easily.
Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema
In the meantime, someone is vandalizing the construction site of a future pancake house that is part of a regional chain. The job foreman Curley (Tim Blake Nelson, Holes) yells at the kind-hearted but somewhat dim Office Delinko (Luke Wilson; Legally Blonde, The Family Stone). Curley demands that the cops find the trouble-makers while trying to cover over the holes in the ground where little burrowing owls dwell. Burrowing owls are a protected species and saving them and their habitat is at the heart of this enjoyable family film.
Brie Larson, who plays Beatrice, calls the film “quirky”, and it is indeed that. Beatrice is Mullet Finger’s step-sister, and though we never see their parents, their irresponsible and uncaring attitude toward their children mirrors the attitude too often displayed toward the environment by society, corporate expansion, and government. As in most television shows and movies that feature adolescents, Roy, Beatrice, and Mullet Fingers show adults the way of wisdom and social action and seem a lot smarter than their elders, often at their expense. Mullet Fingers seemed to me like a mythic character that transcends the normal while Roy is the well-grounded kid who takes his father’s advice to follow the paper trail to resolve the conflict between corporate greed and concern for nature.
Hoot is a film with a message accompanied by a sparkling sound track with original songs by Jimmy Buffett who appears in the movie as Roy’s marine biology teacher. Director and screenwriter Wil Shriner (Becker, Frasier) brings his extensive comedic experience to the project and shares a sensitivity to Florida’s diminishing natural habitat with Buffett and author Hiaasen.
If you enjoyed reading Hoot, you’ll want to see this engaging film that only takes minor liberties with the details. And don’t miss Flush, Carl Hiaasen’s newest novel featuring Florida teens who take on a casino boat owner that flushes sewage into coastal waters and endangers loggerhead turtles. This time the main characters have to deal with their father who takes the environment so much to heart that he keeps ending up in jail for his activities, and find a non-violent way to save the turtles at the same time. Since care for the integrity of creation is one of the principles of Catholic social teaching, the film and novels are fine entertainment as well as morality tales that are increasingly relevant for today.