Eco-Friendly 'Hoot' Is for the Birds

Logan Lerman and Brie Larson fight to save owls in
Logan Lerman and Brie Larson fight to save owls in "Hoot." (By Glenn Watson -- New Line Productions)
Friday, May 5, 2006

In "Hoot," Montana teenager Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman) and his always-on-the-move parents (Neil Flynn and Kiersten Warren) have just moved to sleepy Coconut Grove, Fla. Once again, Roy finds himself adapting to a new school, which means avoiding chubby bully Dana Matherson (Eric Phillips) and Beatrice (Brie Larson), a dour soccer jock who makes no secret of her dislike for Roy.

As Dana smushes Roy's face against a school bus window, Roy sees a towheaded, barefoot boy rushing past. This kid seems to be in a hurry, and wherever he's headed, it's not school. It isn't until Roy manages to befriend Beatrice that he gets the full story.

The blond streak is Beatrice's stepbrother, Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley), a runaway who hides out in the Everglades, collecting snakes and plotting against a developer named Muckle (Clark Gregg), who is building a pancake house atop a nesting ground of legally protected owls. Does Roy want to join Mullet and Beatrice on an environmentally conscious counteroffensive?

Although Lerman shows some life as Roy, he's an anomaly in a sea of insipidity. Larson is a likable but bland presence. She has neither the liveliness nor the spunky swagger for her role. While the younger actors struggle for vitality, the grownups overwork their comedy into a strained dither. As police officer Delinko, a bumbler whose efforts to prove himself an aspiring detective meet with perpetual failure, Luke Wilson telegraphs his humor so obviously you almost want to laugh out of politeness.

"Hoot" may be warm and fuzzy with its adorable owls, triumphant kids and inviting Florida groves. But its forced, innocuous humor is unlikely to amuse anyone but the very young -- and the extremely forgiving.

-- Desson Thomson

Hoot PG, 105 minutes Contains mild bullying and some profanity. Area theaters.

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