The ever-annoying Lebouf wasn’t nearly as bad in his younger years.

Having thought that I’d watched the movie Holes with my daughter years ago, I knew it to be a fun, family-friendly film about conservation; so when I saw it was going to be on television, I decided to tape it for her. However, I was mistaken. The film we’d seen was Hoot! Thankfully, I watched Holes (2003) before allowing her to, because it was much too violent and disturbing for a six-year-old.

That said, I think this is a movie she will enjoy in a couple of years, as I really liked it myself. It was a little kitschy, a little fluffy; but I don’t even care. It was still a lot of fun to watch, and Shia Lebouf, the lead in the movie at a much younger age, wasn’t nearly as annoying as he is today! Sure, he was the underdog, but he was one you root for, rather than one you roll your eyes at.

Holes is a bit of a complicated story. Based on the book by the same name, it’s about a young man and his family’s curse, a camp for juvenile delinquents and its own legends, friendship, interracial love during the wild west, a wrongly convicted teen (Lebouf), and more. It sounds like a lot—and it is; some of the story does get a little confusing—but overall it’s both funny and dramatic. It’s also full of a bunch of talented people, from Sigourney Weaver to Jon Voight.

There are some scary scenes, including at least one murder and other death, bullying, and deadly desert animals (that may or may not be fictional; they didn’t seem realistic to me, anyway). Part mystery, part fantasy, the movie was a lot of fun to see. Lebouf plays a teen who is wrongly convicted of stealing and sent to a camp for boys out in the desert. Each day, the boys must dig holes, though they aren’t fully sure why. It’s grueling, demanding work, and in the opening scene one teen even risks death to be rid of the task.

Though Lebouf is an innocent kid, close to his family and pretty much the opposite of the other kids, he slowly starts to fit in with them and through a bit of sheer luck combined with his own good character and conscience, he not only saves himself from the situation and his family from poverty, but also the rest of the boys from the cruelty they’re faced with on a daily basis. I would recommend this movie to any older child/teen; it’s not as moving of a coming-of-age story as, say, Stand by Me, but it’s something that I think a lot of kids would relate to, and certainly that most kids might enjoy.