Release Date:  May 5, 2006
Rating:  PG (mild bullying and brief language)
Genre:  Animation/Comedy/Adventure/Family
Run Time:  90 min.
Director:  Wil Shriner
Actors:  Logan Lerman, Brie Larson, Cody Linley, Tim Blake Nelson, Luke Wilson, and Jimmy Buffett

Walden Media certainly knows the formula for making a successful movie.  According to producer Micheal Flaherty, the secret is simple:  just find an already beloved, cherished, award-winning book, and turn it into a screenplay.  His formula has certainly worked for movies such as “Holes”, “Because of Winn Dixie”“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” …. and now “Hoot,” based on a Newberry Award-winning book of the same title, comes to the silver screen with the same solid intrigue.

Actually, the name Walden Media can be traced to its founders’ love for great literature, specifically the special place, Walden Pond, where author Henry David Thoreau once made his home in Concord, Massachusetts.  Thoreau wrote about nature’s role in building character, and now Walden Media and The National Wildlife Federation have expanded on this value in “Hoot” by inspiring young people to be involved stewards of this great earth and its vulnerable creatures.

“Hoot” wraps a charming teen-based story around the plight of the burrowing owl, an adorable, 5-ounce, earth-nesting creature that is being threatened by a new pancake house development in Florida. A young man, Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lehrman) moves from Montana down to the sunshine state with his family, where he discovers that a certain boy, “Mullet Fingers” (Cody Linley) lives alone in the woods, secretly engaging in a massive fight to protect the endangered owls from heartless construction.  Only Roy’s mysterious new classmate, Mullet’s sister, Beatrice (Brie Larson), knows the full truth about her brother’s stealthy activities, and she will do what it takes to protect his cover.

Meanwhile, the high-strung construction manager for the pancake house development, Curly (Tim Blake Nelson – “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”) is tired of being constantly thwarted by a seemingly invisible saboteur and is threatened by the “suits” to get rolling on the restaurant. He teams up with the bumbling Officer Delinko (Luke Wilson) to set up a massive stakeout on the site to expose the owl-loving vandals.  As Curly and Delinko get closer and closer to the truth, Roy must make some tough decisions on just how far he’ll go to help out the owls who have suddenly hit a crucial stage in their battle for survival.

“Hoot” is well-written, produced, and acted, and delivers a notable family film experience void of the usual trash seen in other teen fare such as “Scary Movie 4.” Regrettably, nowadays the typical Hollywood teen movie is filled with large doses of sex, drugs, alcohol, and attitude, but audiences won’t find many of these elements in “Hoot.”  Like the recent “Aquamarine”, “Hoot” proves that you can produce a good, clean movie without sacrificing entertainment value. As a matter of fact, the kids in the packed-out audience in my screening started screaming in delight whenever they saw scenes with the science teacher.  (I didn’t realize until later that the teacher was Jimmy Buffett!)

One of the best elements of the “Hoot” screening was a post-movie satellite uplink to Hollywood, where one of the movie’s producers (Frank Marshall), the writer (Carl Hiaasen), director (Wil Shriner), and three actors (Linley, Larson, and Buffet) answered live questions from audiences in theaters throughout the nation.  It was fascinating to hear Jimmy Buffett, (“Mr. Margaritaville”) talk about how important it was – now that he is a father – for his own children to be shielded from the base influences of the world and introduced to uplifting, educational films such as “Hoot.”

While it was fun to see that producers, directors and actors are all very real people with goofy humor and relatable, real-world struggles, it was also sobering to see all the effort and resources that go into producing a quality film such as "Hoot."  The moviemakers will likely reap box office rewards that make up for their trouble, however, as the beloved book-turned-movie will most likely be a hit.

AUDIENCE:  Children and adults

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None.
  • Language/Profanity:  None noted, though the movie got its PG rating for “mild language.”  In one scene it appears that a “darn it” was voiced in over a possible “damn it.”
  • Sex/Nudity:  None.
  • Violence:  A bit of humorous, slapstick violence, including tying up a “suit” and gagging him.  There is also some high school bullying depicted, as well as some vandalism in the name of protecting nature. There is implied violence toward the owls, though the filmmakers assured audiences that no people or animals were harmed in the film’s production.