A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know the film concerns a corporation's illegal effort to build a restaurant on protected land. To stop a saboteur, the local corporate employee sets mousetraps and sends out trained attack dogs. The kids who are trying to stop the building also engage in illegal activities, such as setting loose alligators and cottonmouth snakes, deflating tires, spray-painting a police cruiser, organizing a town meeting under false pretenses, and tying up the villain in a closet. The company boss lies, cheats, and treats his girlfriend callously. Kids and adults use mildly obnoxious language ("dork," "sucks"). A chaste flirtation develops between the boy and girl protagonists.
What's the story?
HOOT focuses on three kids who unite to combat the corporate entity endangering owls. One of the rebels, a wily nature-boy named only Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley), discovers the company's scheme and then sets to sabotaging the construction site, convincing his friends to help him. Having gone truant from military school, Mullet Fingers solicits help in saving the owls from Roy (Logan Lerman), new to Coconut Cove, Florida and feeling alienated when he first spots Mullet Fingers running barefoot along his school bus route. When Roy tracks down the mysterious boy, he also meets Mullet Fingers' stepsister, Beatrice the Bear (Brie Larson), so named because she's a tough, respected sports competitor willing to beat up anyone who crosses her. Enter the villain, Curly (Tim Blake Nelson). Assigned to protect the site where a new Pancake site is to be erected, Curly is sneaky and generally miserable. His boss, Mr. Muckle (Clark Gregg), is almost hyperactive in his cruel conniving. No one's about to feel sorry for them when the kids make trouble, even to the point of leaving Muckle tied up and gagged.
Is it any good?
Sweet but clumsy, HOOT doesn't show much of the endangered burrowing owls that motivate the plot. Instead, it focuses on the three kids. Produced by Jimmy Buffett (who provides a score and an appearance as the wise science teacher), the movie's good intentions are repeatedly undermined by awkward pacing and editing, such that storylines collide more than coincide.
The movie tends to sanction bad behavior when the intentions are righteous. For instance, when the school bully Dana (Eric Phillips) starts picking on Roy, Beatrice steps in to defend him, leaving Dana stripped to his underwear and tied to a tree so her teammates can walk by and giggle at him. The villains, on the other hand, are broadly drawn and uncomplicated: The least irritating adult in sight is also the least relevant: Officer Delinko (amiable Luke Wilson) tries to help the kids but gets himself in trouble with his boss when Mullet Fingers spray-paints his cruiser's windows during a stakeout. Still, it's Delinko, who appears to be slow-on-the-uptake, who sees the children's righteous cause before anyone else. And so he helps them achieve their ends: thwarted corruption and shut-down bulldozers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what tactics might effectively stop corporate cheating. How does the film parallel the middle school bully with the corporate bully? How do Roy's lies to his parents lead to their distress and what lesson does he learn from the experience? They could also compare the movie to the book upon which it's based.
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