Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch: New movies include family fare, Adam Sandler

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the May 1, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

The opening three months of 2003 has been less than stellar for Hollywood movies. Academy Award-nominated films left over from 2002 made the first six weeks of the year an exciting time. But finally in mid-April along comes a very good movie released this year; in fact, the best movie of the year so far.

Walt Disney Studios have released a wonderful movie for the entire family. The film is Holes, based on Louis Sachar’s 1998 Newbery Award-winning novel. Finally a story made popular by its use in middle school literature classes comes on the scene to find a whole new audience of older people.

Sachar himself wrote the screenplay for Holes. I am told by those who have read this very popular book that the movie follows its exciting and complicated plot almost exactly.

The plot centers on teenager Stanley Yelnats (Shia LaBeouf) who is unjustly sent for 18 months to a juvenile facility called Camp Green Lake in the Texan desert land. There he meets up with a rather fascinating group of so-called juvenile delinquents. Every day each boy must dig one hole, measuring five by five feet, on a desert flat that once was a lake. The exercise is designed to build character, but if they find anything unusual they are supposed to turn it in to the warden, flintily played by Sigourney Weaver.

On top of the main story line there is a piece from over 100 years ago in Latvia, where a curse is supposed to have been placed on the men of the Yelnats (Stanley spelled backwards) family.

Another intriguing part of the story takes place at the turn of the century on what was a beautiful lake in Texas where an African-American peddler (Dule Hill from The West Wing) falls in love with a beautiful schoolmarm. In the end we see how the good citizen school teacher (Patricia Arquette) becomes the famous outlaw Kate Barlow.

The complicated plot of Holes fits together beautifully. The scenes of camaraderie by the boys of the camp are highlighted by fights, nicknames, and eventual caring for one another.

The acting of Shia LaBeouf is incredibly good. His eventual best friend, Zero, played by Khieo Thomas, could not be better.

Besides the warden at the camp we have Jon Voight as Mr. Sir and Tim Blake Nelson as the camp counselor, Dr. Pendanski. Voight has come along way since Midnight Cowboy more than 30 years ago. For my taste he plays his character too broadly. Blake is right on in a critique of pseudo-counseling.

Andrew Davis should be given lots of credit for directing with seemingly ease a very complicated story. You do know clearly who the good guys and bad guys are throughout. So there is a black and white morality tale woven into the story.

The call to carry someone up the mountain on your back has a lot to do with the call to care about other human beings. Yes, Holes is story of doing good and avoiding evil. But it is so well told it is hard to notice that Holes in the end is similar to an old-fashioned medieval play acted out on the front steps of the European cathedrals.

It is great to have such a well-made film that all but the smallest family members can enjoy. But in the end shouldn’t the treasure be turned in to those from whom it had been stolen? (Sorry. I’m being too literal.)

Holes is rated PG. It has some violence and very mild profanity. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Holes A-II – for adults and adolescents.


Anger Management, the new Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler film, is at times a very funny commercial film that has a story that would probably be rated 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. Some very good actors and surprise celebrities are stationed at key points throughout the film. I truly missed recognizing Woody Harrelson until he reappeared at the end of the film looking more like his persona in Cheers. There is a cameo appearance by basketball coach Bobby Knight that would have been better taped from the evening sportscast. Bobby can’t act angry. He must have to be actually angry.

Sandler is a low-level advertising executive specializing in designer clothes for overweight cats. On a trip to a business meeting through a series of humorous events he is accused of injuring a flight attendant as he asked her for a head set to view the movie. The result is an appearance before a judge who sentences Sandler to 20 days of anger management classes.

The psychiatrist is played by Jack Nicholson with devilish intensity. It turns out he is the same person who was sitting on the plane next to Sandler’s character, David. The film follows David to group sessions with the likes of fine actors like John Turturro and Luis Guzman.

David has another incident at a bar where he injures a waitress with a white cane he has taken from a blind man. The result is a mandatory program where the Nicholson character comes and lives with David to supervise special anger management techniques.

The plot goes all over the place, including Boston. Dave’s beloved Linda (Marisa Tomei) becomes dissatisfied with his progress. They separate to allow them to think things out slowly.

The result is a exuberant finale at Yankee Stadium, where Dave steals the microphone from an opera singer getting ready to sing the national anthem. With the help of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, he begs Linda to marry him. So we have a romantic comedy tied to a Sandler comedy. The ending at Yankee stadium is extravagant. But it is interesting to note it really was filmed there with a huge crowd.

One of the best scenes other critics have mentioned is the visit to a Buddhist monastery to reconcile with a monk (John C. Reilly) who as a child embarrassed David in a way that has prevented him from publicly kissing his girlfriend in public.

Anger Management is nowhere close to the quality of Sandler’s Punch Drunk Love and Nicholson’s About Schmidt. But Anger Management does offer lots of laughs for a spring season. Both Sandler and Nicholson play the stereotype roles they are long associated with. So this film may well be an easy walk-through for both actors. But they sure do it well and it makes us laugh.

Anger Management is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It has lots of bathroom humor, sexual content and crude language. The American Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Anger Management as A-IV – adults, with reservations.

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane and pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney. His reviews also appear in the Cheney Free Press.)

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