" Nobody goes into the valley of death. That’s why they call it the valley of death. "
— Grant Heslov, The Scorpion King

MRQE Top Critic

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Holes is a kids’ movie, based on a popular kids’ book. Unlike so much “for kids” entertainment, it hasn’t been dumbed down, animated, sanitized, then loaded with bathroom humor. It’s actually a good, original story, and it’s actually fun for adults.

The Disney DVD presents the movie in its original widescreen format, and it offers the usual batch of extra features. None of the extras are interesting enough to justify the cost of the DVD, but the wonderful movie probably is.

Camp Greenlake

The kids are alright, and the story is excellent
The kids are alright, and the story is excellent

Stanley Yelnats IV gets hit on the head by fate. A pair of oversized shoes fall from the sky, just in time for the police to see them in his possession. The stolen shoes belonged to “Sweet Feet,” a pro baseballer, who had donated them to a charity auction. Stanley is sentenced to 18 months at Camp Greenlake.

Camp Greenlake lies in the middle of a barren desert. (Stanley innocently asks the camp manager Mr. Sir (Jon Voight) “where’s the lake?” before he learns to keep his mouth shut.) The only geographic feature is thousands and thousands of holes, five feet wide and five feet deep.

“You take a bad boy, make him dig holes all day in the hot sun, and it turns him into a good boy,” says Mr. Sir.

Of course, reform is just the surface excuse for the camp. Warden Louise Walker (Sigourney Weaver), along with Sir and “Dr.” Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson) are looking for something buried in all these holes.

A parallel story about the Yelnats family curse, and one about the local history of Camp Greenlake are also presented. All three stories weave together nicely, sharing peaches and onions as common threads. It’s clear from the story what a good script (written by Louis Sachar, also the book’s author) director Andrew Davis had to work with.

The boys of camp Greenlake are a colorful, yet believable batch of kids. The teasing, the cliquishness, and the eventual camaraderie all seem genuine, as the child actors’ audio commentary bears out.

DVD Extras

Many of the extras promise more than they deliver. The music video, for example, intercuts the boys in the recording studio and footage from the film. But the song they sing is incomplete and the video just fades out after a minute or two. The Gag Reel is also edited like a music video. It contains outtakes, but not a single laugh.

The feature called “Digging the First Hole” is about the adaptation from the book. Louis Sachar describes how he came to write Holes in the first place, and how he got invited by director Davis to write the screenplay for the movie. I didn’t learn anything surprising from this segment, but I found it appropriate that the writer should get such a prominent section on the DVD. Ultimately it was Sachar’s story, and not Davis’ direction or any of the acting, that makes Holes so good. Bad direction or acting could have ruined the movie, but the beauty of the movie was always Sachar’s tale.

Disney recorded two commentary tracks. One features four of the young cast members and, not surprisingly, they spend their time talking to themselves and not to us. Their energy is entertaining, and aspiring child actors might enjoy imagining themselves among the crowd, but the track isn’t very insightful.

The other commentary features Davis and Sachar and is more informative, although still lacks the spark and insight of a great commentary track. They reveal how they achieved certain tricky shots, and they point out some of the jokes and references they didn’t think anyone would get. These nuggets of information push the Davis/Sachar track above average.

Picture and Sound

Once again, I’m at a loss for much to say about picture and sound quality. As with recent Buena Vista Home Entertainment releases, the quality of both is beyond reproach. The movie is presented in its original widescreen (1.85:1) aspect ratio (a full-screen version is also available), and the sound is encoded in (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround).

Conclusion

There are some above-average features on the Disney DVD of Holes. There are also some that disappoint. But the best reason to buy the DVD remains the wonderful story, for kids and adults, by Louis Sachar.

  • hottie: this is a pretty good review...it help in some ways for my homework April 24, 2008 reply