You want to love everything that comes from Walden Media. The company has an admirable mission-adapting classic children's literature and inspiring true stories to the big screen-and has met with some encouraging success, most notably last year's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But the young company's track record is already somewhat spotty: while Holes and Because of Winn-Dixie turned out well, the company's Around the World in 80 Days remake was a colossal flop.
Unfortunately, Walden's latest release belongs in the "flop" category. Hoot (based on the kids' novel by Florida comic crime writer Carl Hiaasen and rated PG for mild bullying and brief language) is frustrating on so many different levels, one hopes that it will quickly disappear from theaters, and, somehow, from Walden's filmography, too.
Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman) has spent his young life moving with his family from place to place; the latest move is from Montana to Florida, where Roy starts afresh at yet another new school. The outsider, dubbed "Cowgirl" by unwelcoming fellow high-schoolers, is immediately (and strangely) drawn to an odd boy whom he sees running barefoot through his neighborhood.
"Mullet Fingers" (Cody Linley) is a runaway dedicated to preventing plans for a new Mother Paula's Pancake House from destroying the habitat of some burrowing owls. Soon Roy and classmate Beatrice (Brie Larson) have joined Mullet Fingers in his cause. But Hoot isn't just preachy environmentalist tripe, where everyone learns, by film's end, to live in perfect harmony.
Rather, Hoot encourages a mentality that suggests, with little nuance, that:
1. All adults are idiots (except, perhaps, Jimmy Buffett).
2. Respect for authority is not only optional, but highly discouraged.
3. Businessmen are not just idiots, they're evil idiots.
4. When it comes to protecting the environment, anything goes, including theft, vandalism, and life-threatening cottonmouth snakes.
5. Kids are wise, compassionate, clever, and generally know the right thing to do, assuming no meddlesome adults get in their way.
Walden has How to Eat Fried Worms and a live-action remake of Charlotte's Web on tap next-and it's time to get back to the classics.