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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.7%
Worth A Look: 31.75%
Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap: 3.17%

7 reviews, 21 user ratings

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by William Goss

"Bye Bye Birdie"
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 FLORIDA FILM FESTIVAL: All right. I have to get this out of my system: No, you shouldn’t give a hoot about 'Hoot,' because clichés of a feather flock to it as it flies over the audience and craps on everything in sight. Such an assessment may be considered abrasive, derivative, and rather juvenile, but I feel an obligation to stress simply that 'Hoot' is a product of equally weak acting, writing, and direction that fuses to form an overwhelmingly lackluster creation that somehow passes for family fare, thanks to a hokey message wedged amongst the debris.

The family of Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman) moves yet again, this time from Montana to the seaside community of Coconut Cove, Florida, and the teen finds himself the new kid in town once more. As such, the first thing young Roy does on the bus ride to school is gaze at a blond barefooted boy dashing by. For reasons unknown, Roy becomes unusually fascinated with this kid to a borderline creepy extent. Stalker complex aside, he eventually discovers that the kid, known only as “Mullet Fingers” (Cody Linley), is teaming up with his stepsister, Beatrice (Brie Larson), in an effort to save several owls threatened by the pending construction of a pancake house. Does this sound like the plot of a fifth-grade-level novel? Well, wouldn’t you know it, the film is indeed based on the children’s book by Carl Hiassen, one with a wholesome moral center, affable characters, and syntax basic enough for Jimmy Buffett to digest (he contributes as actor, composer, and producer). Hiassen claims to have written it as a catharsis for experiencing a similar situation as a child and failing to act, but just because he craved a happy ending for his childhood regrets on paper shouldn’t suggest that the schmaltz ever belongs on a big screen.

Armed only with TV experience, writer/director Wil Shriner makes his debut collide right into the hurdle between a good message and a good movie, as the film follows the teens’ efforts at eco-terrorism, with vandalism and other criminal acts targeted at the bumbling construction supervisor (Tim Blake Nelson), the dopey cop (Luke Wilson), and the bothersome bully (Eric Phillips), all of whom someone just has to stand up to, because Shriner says so. The cast, regardless of age, are too eager and less talented than the material needs, and he can neither guide them nor shoot them as he should. If only to stress the awkward interest that Roy has in “Mullet Fingers,” Shriner shows the pair on what appears to be a date by all standards, a mid-movie sequence that contributes nothing to the plot and practically dares even the most mature minds to raise an eyebrow in response. They’re how old? Oy.

To boot, the story suffers from pedantic narration, in addition to pandering songs by none other than Buffett. A fine singer/songwriter off-screen, his soundtrack contributions are painfully pedestrian and dictate exactly what the movie is all about (except for his cover of “Werewolves in London,” which lack any logical justification for being included in the film at all). Jack Johnson's work on Curious George help make that film a bit more passable, yet Buffett can only help to make this film just a bit harder to stomach. The lyrics to his main anthem, titled none other than “Good Guys Win,” go on to dictate the entire movie, just in case anyone found it too overwhelming:

“Good guys win every once in a while,
Full-grown men get to learn from a child,
Now and then,
Just when you think it won’t happen again,
Good guys win.”

Ugh. Even for songs targeted towards a younger audience, lines this tremendously trite are just insult to the injury that is an uninspired story that just expects to you to succumb because everything is going to go exactly as it should, and the good guys will win, so why bother watching? Where’s the appeal? Where’s the risk? Where’s the value of a message told in such a condescending manner? Try as I might, the answers to why such a weak story has to be so willingly tossed towards its viewer elude me. Wah, wah, the Man doesn’t care about the endangered birds. Frankly, neither do I.

Some part of me hopes that family filmmakers can construct a movie that finds a reasonable and rather realistic balance between crude and clean, but Hoot feels downright sanitized. The fact that it received a PG rating for ‘mild bullying and brief language’ boggles the mind, as “dang” is the worst word to tumble out of anyone’s lips. If parents believe that the prospect of bullying is going to warp their child’s mind, then I wish them luck in shielding them from anything resembling the real world. To make matters worse, Floridians are generally depicted as hicks who do nothing but blunder about while waiting on their next helping of conch salad. Even March’s Aquamarine gave a genuine (and genial) impression of our state, not some Southern stereotype, and that was filmed in Australia of all places, as opposed to here – well, what Buffett owns of it, at least. Alas, those are two lesser details in a movie that so very easily could have been merely mediocre. It almost takes effort to choke up one’s own feel-good family flick, and Shriner seems to do everything right to get it all wrong.

Just wait for it. Lurking around the corner is the token excuse: “It’s just a family flick.” While indeed resembling something of a cynic’s nightmare, 'Hoot' is simply too bland to recommend to anyone outside of the least discerning kids and parents, a group that would probably benefit the most from a superior substitute, something like 'Holes' or anything from Pixar. Instead of cutting studios slack, parents should pretend that their children actually deserve to watch quality films when given the chance, not the latest cookie-cutter crap. These days, decent family fare, movies both good AND good for them, is the true endangered species, not the hackneyed likes of 'Hoot.'

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originally posted: 04/30/06 19:37:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2006 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/10/20 dupadoit mullet fingers 4 stars
4/22/14 Edith Redekop It is a fabulous movie - for persons of ALL ages to see! 5 stars
12/11/09 Susan Tucker My kind of movie. Love any movie that protects our wild life, am into Peta and protecting a 5 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner Kids love this movie! 5 stars
1/02/08 allyce the olws were so cute 5 stars
5/19/07 David Pollastrini didn't think much of it. 2 stars
12/01/06 Sarah is a BAMF This was pretty cute, good for little kids and tweens. 4 stars
9/30/06 Karina a bit unbelieveable but its cool!! hoot hoot hoot 3 stars
9/04/06 Jenny aw.. this was heartwarming. A good one for the family. 4 stars
8/28/06 action movie fan pkay family movie kids trying to save burrowing owls 3 stars
8/26/06 michael good story 2 see 4 stars
8/21/06 Dylan nix Awesome movie,fantastic 5 stars
8/18/06 Tiffany cute 4 stars
6/22/06 Heather Purplethorne Palm trees grow in Ireland? Really? 4 stars
6/15/06 ashley hoot was awsome and linley is hott 5 stars
5/23/06 george it was a good movie 4 stars
5/12/06 Emily i loved the movie!!!! 5 stars
5/10/06 San Lamar to childish for my taste 1 stars
5/06/06 Heather Runyan this movie is sooo cool! i loved it! 5 stars
4/19/06 MBR Loved the movie! 4 stars
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  05-May-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 15-Aug-2006



Directed by
  Wil Shriner

Written by
  Wil Shriner

  Logan Lerman
  Brie Larson
  Cody Linley
  Jessica Cauffiel
  Tim Blake Nelson
  Luke Wilson

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