It's little wonder the Mouse House is soiling itself at the prospect of losing Pixar. If the audacious animators find another distributor, Disney will be in trouble indeed judging by its latest effort. It's not that Holes is bad, it's just there. Solid, decent, its existence is cause for neither concern nor delight.
Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf) is a likeable young nebbish who's wrongly convicted of half-inching some trainers. Packed off to youth detention centre Camp Green Lake, he's left to the tender mercies of Tim Blake Nelson's sadistic counsellor and Jon Voight's (unbelievably hammy) pistol-packing guard. ""You take a bad boy, make him dig holes in the hot sun all day, turns him into a good boy. That's our philosophy"," says Voight, sending our hero into the desert to dig, dig, dig. But character is not the only thing they're searching for, as The Warden (Sigourney Weaver) eventually reveals.
There's plenty more plot - including a flashback Western segment involving the excellent Patricia Arquette - - but, unlike the filmmakers, we'll spare you every last detail. Louis Sachar does an impressive job of adapting his own big-in-the-States book, but a snappier edit would make for a sprightlier film. Instead, there are scenes and sequences that loll about on the screen, virtually demanding to be snipped. No wonder Holes clocks in at two hours.
Okay, so the Potter-boy epics go on forever as well, which could mean that children's attention spans are stretching. But while there's undeniable sweetness to Holes, it hasn't any magic. It's an amiable-enough flick with an above-average cast. Just make sure you watch it with patient kids, if such beings actually exist.