What a handful of a movie!

What a handful of a movie! And I don't mean the dirt from the holes the juvenile delinquents dig as their irrational punishment "to build character" at Green Lake Camp detention center. Director Andrew Davis's ("The Fugitive") "Holes" is a pile of themes about loyalty, greed, interracial love, murder, revenge, suicide, and inheritance packed into an "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" desert Disney chaos for the young.

Stanley Yelnats (palindromic name), played deftly by Shia LaBeouf (TV's "Even Stevens"), is wrongly sent to the camp for stealing a celebrity athlete's sneakers. He leaves behind an eccentric family headed by shoe-smelling inventor Henry Winkler only to join a weirder crew at the detention center headed by Warden Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight, playing the abusive, over-the-top funny assistant "Mr. Sir." These veteran actors, and assistant Tim Blake Nelson, play their caricatures of scheming, authority-intoxicated adults with such expertise that the themes of greed and abuse are both serious and humorous.

Where the film falters is trying to maneuver the transitions between present day and 19th-century Latvia and the Wild West. It must be confusing for a 10 year old, but my young companion, Mariah, appreciated the way all the loose ends were tied up at the conclusion. Because she is reading in class the novel from which Louis Sachar adapted his screenplay and she liked the film, you don't have to take my word for how good a movie it is--Mariah said so, and 10 year olds rule popular culture and families as far as I can tell.