Holes (2003)

(Netflix Streaming, April 2016) For a film clearly aimed at kids, Holes does manage to keep up an engaging mixture of mystery, fantasy and comedy—not to mention weightier themes of destiny, racism and juvenile incarceration, delivered with a tone akin to magical realism. Shia Labeouf, in his feature-film debut, plays a young teenager sent to a desert detention camp after a freakish coincidence—except that his entire family is accustomed to those freakish coincidences given a long-running curse. Quirky characters inhabit an awe-inspiring mystery (why make kids dig thousands of pits in an old desiccated lakebed?) and by the time our teenage heroes are done unravelling the case, we’ve jumped into a few generations’ worth of conflict, prophecies and opportunities for redemption. There’s an admirable continuity in the way the film goes from specific tactile sensations such as digging under the sun to much-bigger themes such as predestination. Holes isn’t without flaws, but it works in different ways that most other movies aimed at its age cohort, and as such sustain a fair amount of scrutiny by older audiences.

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