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Hoot: Platinum Series

Hoot (2006) likely won't be the most disturbing film you'll see this year, but the overly relaxed comedy — about a trio of teens who protect an endangered owl by any means necessary — does have a really unfortunate "ends-justify-the-means" message. The movie preaches, in its own dopey way, violence first and dialogue second. Roy (Logan Lerman) transfers to a Florida middle school. For reasons explained far, far away from the script, he becomes obsessed with a barefoot kid named "Mullet Fingers" (Cody Linley). Soon, Roy is hanging out with Mullet and Mullet's stepsister (Brie Larson) as they engage in cute little acts of eco-terror to keep a pancake house from being erected over the nest-holes of endangered burrowing owls. We're asked to root for these idiots as they pull up surveyor stakes, put a crocodile in an outhouse, spray-paint a patrol car, release cottonmouth snakes to scare off guard dogs, present false information during a hospital visit, flee the five-oh, vandalize bulldozers, and assault the pancake-house CEO (Clark Gregg) — a man so cartoonishly nasty, he makes these schmucks look like the good guys. And then, like three-fourths of the way through the film, it finally occurs to the kids to dig up an environmental report and call an on-site press conference — which the entire town gleefully attends. Which is maybe something the kids should have tried before unleashing the poisonous snakes, don'cha think? The film's producers would no doubt retort, "Relax. It's a kids' movie." After all, one of those producers is the very relaxed Jimmy Buffett — he of the laid-back songs about white-bread, middle-aged pirates with surprising bar tabs. Unfortunately, the lazy Buffett ethos infects Hoot to a clinical degree. Screenwriter-director Wil Shriner, adapting Carl Hiaasen's young-adult novel, puts the film in a sun-struck logical coma. We never really find out why characters do what they do. There are errant subplots that go nowhere. The movie has an episodic TV quality so pronounced that you might expect commercial breaks. And, worst of all, no one really learns anything. The film's final scene finds Roy and Mullet looking at a sign announcing a condo construction site. Their eyes gleam wickedly. It's meant to be funny — if we presume they aren't figuring out where to plant pipe bombs.

New Line's "Platinum Series" DVD release of Hoot features a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Supplements include a commentary track with director Wil Shriner and novelist Carl Hiaasen, six deleted scenes with optional commentary and a "play all" feature, a blooper reel (3 min.), the featurettes "Hoot's Hands-On Habitat Projects" (5 min.), "Backyard Habitat" (7 min.), "Meet the Kids in the Cast" (9 min.), "Animals in Action" (6 min.), "Visit an Animal Rescue Center" (8 min.), "Meet the Creator of Hoot" (5 min.), "Jimmy Buffett: Filmmaker in Paradise" (8 min.), "Director on the Set" (4 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
Mike Russell

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