Holes (film)

Last updated

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Andrew Davis
Screenplay by Louis Sachar
Based on Holes
by Louis Sachar
Produced by
  • Andrew Davis
  • Lowell D. Blank
  • Mike Medavoy
  • Teresa Tucker-Davies
CinematographyStephen St. John
Edited by
  • Thomas J. Nordberg
  • Jeffrey Wolf
Music by Joel McNeely
Distributed by
Release date
  • April 18, 2003 (2003-04-18)(United States)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million [2]
Box office$71.4 million [2]

Holes is a 2003 American neo-Western adventure comedy-drama film directed by Andrew Davis and written by Louis Sachar, based on his novel of the same name, which was originally published in August 1998. The film stars Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette, Tim Blake Nelson and, in his film debut, Shia LaBeouf.


The film was produced by Chicago Pacific Entertainment in association with Phoenix Pictures, presented by Walden Media and Walt Disney Pictures, [3] and distributed in many markets by the distribution company Buena Vista.

Holes was released in the United States on April 18, 2003, and earned $71.4 million worldwide. [2] It was later released on DVD and VHS on September 23, 2003, by Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Walt Disney Home Entertainment. The film is dedicated to Scott Plank, who died in a car accident six months before the film's release in October 2002. [4]


In Texas, the Yelnats family has been cursed to be unlucky – a misfortune they blame on their ancestor Elya's failure to keep a promise to fortune teller Madame Zeroni years ago in Latvia. One day, Stanley Yelnats IV is wrongfully convicted of stealing a pair of sneakers that were donated to charity by baseball player Clyde "Sweet Feet" Livingston, and is sentenced to 18 months at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp, in lieu of jail time.

He arrives to find that the camp is a dried up lake run by the warden, Louise Walker, her assistant Mr. Sir, and camp counselor Dr. Kiowa Pendanski. Prisoners who are known by their nicknames – including Zero, Zig-Zag, Armpit, Squid, X-Ray, and Magnet – spend each day digging holes in the desert; they may earn a day off if the inmates find anything interesting. During one night, Mr. Sir rescues Stanley from a yellow-spotted lizard, which he warns Stanley are aggressive, venomous, and lethal. After finding a golden lipstick tube initialed K.B. and a fossil, Stanley is accepted into the group and is given the nickname Caveman.

After taking the blame for Magnet's stealing of Mr. Sir's sunflower seeds, Stanley is taken to the warden's house where old wanted posters and newspapers lead him to realize that "KB" stands for Katherine "Kissin' Kate" Barlow, a school teacher turned outlaw from the past. Walker asks Stanley to grab her box of nail polish and mentions that it contains rattlesnake venom. After he and Mr. Sir explain what happened with the sunflower seeds, Walker injures Mr. Sir and allows Stanley to return to his hole.

Camp Green Lake's history is revealed in a series of flashbacks: In the 19th century, Green Lake is a flourishing lakeside community. Barlow is involved in a love triangle with the wealthy Charles "Trout" Walker, whom Barlow rejects, and an African-American onion seller named Sam, whom Barlow loves. One night, the jealous Walker and the town's citizens burn down the schoolhouse and kill Sam. In retaliation, Barlow kills the local sheriff who ignored her pleas for help and becomes an outlaw hunting down Walker's men; at one point, she steals Elya's son Stanley's chest of gold. Twenty years later, the now-bankrupt Walkers track down Barlow and demand she hand over her treasure. Barlow refuses and tells them to dig for the treasure, after which Barlow dies from a lizard bite and the Walkers set about digging for the treasure.

In the present, when Pendanski mocks Zero, whose name is actually Hector Zeroni, the latter hits Pendanski with a shovel and runs off. After some deliberation, Stanley searches for Hector. The pair have difficulty surviving in the desert without water. Eventually, Stanley carries the now ill Hector up the mountain where they find a wild field of onions and a source of water, helping them regain strength; at the same time, Stanley unknowingly fulfills his ancestor's promise to the fortune teller and breaks the curse. While camping on the mountain, Hector tells Stanley that he stole Livingston's sneakers and threw them over the bridge to evade the police, only for them to inadvertently hit Stanley's head.

Returning to the camp, Stanley and Hector investigate the hole where Stanley found the lipstick and discover a chest before they are discovered by Walker, Mr. Sir, and Pendanski. They soon realize that Walker, who is a descendant of her family, is using the inmates to search for his treasure. The adults are unable to steal the chest from the boys, as the hole has swarmed with lizards, passive to Stanley and Hector due to the onions they ate earlier. The adults decide to wait for the morning, when the lizards will retreat to the shade.

The next morning, the attorney general and Stanley's lawyer arrive, accompanied by police officers; the chest Stanley found is discovered to have belonged to his great-grandfather. Walker; Mr. Sir, who is revealed to be a paroled criminal named Marion Sevillo; and Pendanski, who is a criminal impersonating a doctor, are arrested. Stanley and Zero are released and it rains in Green Lake for the first time in over 100 years. The Yelnats family claims ownership of the chest which contains jewels, deeds, and promissory notes, which they share with Hector, who uses it to hire private investigators to locate his missing mother, and both families live a life of financial ease as neighbors.



Holes was filmed in California in the summer of 2002, and produced with a budget of $20 million. [2] When looking for a child actor to play the role of Stanley Yelnats, director Andrew Davis asked for a boy, who was like "a young Tom Hanks". Shia LaBeouf, who ended up receiving the role of Stanley, got his sense of the character from reading the film's script, then going on to read the original novel that the film was based on after getting the role.

LaBeouf was simultaneously doing work for the Disney Channel show Even Stevens , and would work on his role in the film after doing his filming on Even Stevens. In the original book, Stanley is depicted as being obese, shedding considerable amounts of weight as the book progresses; however, the filmmakers chose to drop this aspect from the movie, as it would have been difficult to convincingly portray the loss of weight in a live action film.

The film was shot in several locations, including in Ridgecrest, California. Due to the volatile climate, with heat inside of the holes reaching over 150 °F, the actors went through physical training with a stunt guide, in order to keep in shape for long periods of filming. Filming was a new experience for many of the child actors, particularly for LaBeouf, who had never done filming in such an unpredictable climate before.

To show the seven kids' holes being dug gradually throughout the day, different "phases" were used, for each of which the seven holes were given different levels of deepness. For the yellow spotted lizards, fourteen bearded dragons were used, four of which were used for the main parts, and the rest of which were used as "background atmosphere lizards".


The film was released theatrically on April 18, 2003, by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and was released on DVD and VHS on September 23, 2003, by Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Walt Disney Home Entertainment.


The film's music included the Grammy winning single "Just Like You" by Keb Mo', and "Dig It" by The D Tent Boys (the actors portraying the D Tent group inmates), which included a music video that was played regularly on Disney Channel. The soundtrack also included contributions by Eels, Devin Thompson, Dr. John, Eagle Eye Cherry, Fiction Plane, Little Axe, Moby, North Mississippi Allstars, Pepe Deluxé, Shaggy, Stephanie Bentley, and Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps.

The score was composed and conducted by Joel McNeely.

Holes (Original Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedApril 15, 2003
Label Walt Disney Records
  1. "Dig It" – D-Tent Boys
  2. "Keep'n It Real" – Shaggy
  3. "Mighty Fine Blues" – Eels
  4. "Honey" – Moby
  5. "I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday" – Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps
  6. "Just Like You" – Keb' Mo'
  7. "Everybody Pass Me By" – Pepe Deluxé
  8. "I Will Survive" – Stephanie Bentley
  9. "Shake 'Em On Down" – North Mississippi Allstars
  10. "Don't Give Up" – Eagle Eye Cherry
  11. "Happy Dayz" – Devin Thompson
  12. "Let's Make A Better World" – Dr. John
  13. "If Only" – Fiction Plane
  14. "Eyes Down" – Eels
  15. "Down To The Valley" – Little Axe


Box office

Holes grossed $16.3 million in its opening weekend, finishing #2 at the box office behind Anger Management 's second weekend. [5] The film would go on to gross a domestic total of $67.4 million and an additional $4 million in international revenue, totaling $71.4 million at the box office, against a $20 million budget, making the film a moderate financial success. [2] The film was released in the United Kingdom on October 24, 2003, and opened on #9. [6]

Critical response

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 78%, based on 139 reviews, with the site's consensus reading: "Faithful to its literary source, this is imaginative, intelligent family entertainment." [7] On Metacritic, which uses an average of critics' reviews, the film has a 71 out of 100 rating, based on reviews from twenty eight critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [8]

Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film 3.5 of four stars and wrote "Davis has always been a director with a strong visual sense, and the look of Holes has a noble, dusty loneliness. We feel we are actually in a limitless desert. The cinematographer, Stephen St. John, thinks big and frames his shots for an epic feel that adds weight to the story. I walked in expecting a movie for thirteen somethings, and walked out feeling challenged and satisfied. Curious, how much more grown up and sophisticated Holes is than Anger Management ." [9]


2002COLAProduction Company of the Year – FeaturesGreen Lake ProductionsWon
2003COLALocation Professional of the Year – FeaturesMark Benton Johnson (Shared with S.W.A.T. )Won
Artios Best Casting for Feature Film, ComedyAmanda Mackey Johnson and Cathy SandrichNominated
2004 Critics Choice Award Best Family Film – Live ActionNominated
Sierra AwardBest Family FilmWon
MTV Movie Award Breakthrough Male PerformanceShia LaBeoufNominated
PFCS AwardBest Live Action Family Film and Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – MaleNominated
Young Artist Award Best Family Feature Film – DramaNominated
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young ActorShia LaBeoufNominated
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young ActorNoah PoletiekNominated
Khleo ThomasNominated

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  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Holes at Box Office Mojo
  3. McCarthy, Todd (April 16, 2003). "Holes". Variety. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  4. "Scott Plank". variety.com. November 12, 2002. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  5. "Weekend Box Office Results for April 18-20, 2003". Box Office Mojo . April 21, 2003. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  6. "Weekend box office 24th October 2003 - 26th October 2003". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  7. Holes at Rotten Tomatoes
  8. Holes at Metacritic
  9. Ebert, Roger (April 18, 2003). "Holes". Chicago Sun-Times . Retrieved March 24, 2012.