Logan Lerman as Roy Eberhardt
Brie Larson as Beatrice
Cody Linley as Mullet Fingers
Luke Wilson as Officer Delinko
Tim Blake Nelson as Curly
Tom Brainard as Detective
Jimmy Buffett as Mr. Ryan; Marine Science Teacher
Jessica Cauffiel as Mother Paula/Kimberly
Dean Collins as Garrett
Neil Flynn as Mr. Don Eberhardt
Clark Gregg as Muckle
Damaris Justamante as Mrs. Matherson
Eric Phillips as Dana Matherson
Stacy Ann Rose as Dr. Gonzalez
Kin Shriner as Jerry the clerk
Robert Wagner as Mayor
Kiersten Warren as Mrs. Eberhardt

Great songs by Jimmy Buffett and a first-rate crew aren’t enough to save “Hoot.” The weak script and mediocre acting make it seem more like a poor after school special than an adaptation of an award winning children’s book. Kids may like it but adults will find it hard to sit through.

This film is based on the award winning book by Carl Hiaasen.

After moving to Florida, Roy Eberhardt finds he has a hard time fitting in. He’s picked on by a school bus bully, his clothes are made fun of, and he’s generally miserable. However, one day when he sees a homeless boy running incredibly fast, he’s intrigued. Roy tracks down the boy, nicknamed “Mullet Fingers,” and tries to help him out. He discovers that another girl from his school named Beatrice is already aiding the boy. Together they have been secretly harassing a land developer that’s building a pancake house in the habitat of an endangered owl. After gaining sympathy for the owls and the boy, Roy decides to help them. The trio of teens avoids a bumbling sheriff while trying to foil the developer. But will they be able to save the owl in the end?

“Hoot” is rated PG for mild bullying and brief language.

What Worked:
“Hoot” has a pretty good message for kids. It encourages them to appreciate wildlife, take part in their community, help the helpless, and conserve the environment. For that, it’s worth letting kids check out “Hoot.”

“Hoot” also features some good music by producer Jimmy Buffett. He’s a better singer and songwriter than he is an actor, but his original music perfectly sets the lighthearted mood for the movie.

Unfortunately, that’s all the good that I have to say about this film.

What Didn’t Work:
On the surface, “Hoot” looks like a great film. The trailers look fun. It’s produced by Frank Marshall, the guy that produced “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Back to the Future,” “Goonies,” and a bunch of other classic films. It has some good actors in it including Luke Wilson and Tim Blake Nelson. The music by Jimmy Buffett is excellent. It’s based on an award-winning novel. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to save it. “Hoot” is riddled with problems.

First and foremost, the film comes across as a weak after school special. The acting is mediocre and the kids aren’t terribly intriguing. The script is rather poor, too. It’s the kind of story where the adults are bumbling idiots and the kids defy logic by trying to save the day themselves rather than going to a responsible adult for help. Sometimes that formula works (like in Harry Potter), other times it doesn’t. “Hoot” defies logic in other ways. For example, Roy gets beaten up on the school bus while a rather oblivious adult drives it. In the real world, charges probably would have been brought up against the kid. In another scene Roy discovers Mullet Fingers’ secret hideout. Mullet Finger then jumps him, puts a bag over his head, and drags him out again as if not letting him see the way out will make him forget how he found his way in. Then there are the bumbling antics of Luke Wilson’s character. He makes Barney Fife look like Dirty Harry. I know “Hoot” is supposed to be fanciful to some degree, but it came across as quite lame.

“Hoot” had one other weird thing going for it. As Roy is literally having his face smashed in a school bus window, he starts staring at a blonde haired pretty boy running alongside the bus in slow motion. If I was being beat up, I would have bigger concerns than a kid running by the bus. This continues as Roy’s obsession with Mullet Fingers goes to great lengths. He skips school to track him down, he goes through the boy’s belongings, and more. It had a weird vibe to it. Then there was a long scene where the boys go out in a boat together, learn how to throw a fishing net together, and swim together. I felt embarrassed because the perfectly innocent boyhood fun had a weird homoerotic feel to it in my mind. But just as I was chastising myself for thinking that, the movie reviewer next to me leaned over to me and said, “This sure is homoerotic.” So it wasn’t just me that thought this. It didn’t help much later on when the bully pulled Roy into a closet and beat him up while laying on top of him.

The Bottom Line:
Overall, “Hoot” was just very poorly executed, especially when you compare it to other recent children’s book adaptations like “Because of Winn-Dixie.” I really wanted to walk out of the theater halfway through the film. However, I stuck around because my young children really enjoyed it. They got bored at some parts, but they were fairly entertained by it. They especially loved the owls. So if you have to entertain kids, “Hoot” will fit the bill, but don’t expect to enjoy it as much yourself.

Box Office

Weekend: Nov. 15, 2018, Nov. 18, 2018

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