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Bland Family Fare, With a Message

Roy (Logan Lerman) is a fish-out-of-water, a Montana teenager transplanted to Coconut Grove, Fla., by his nomadic parents. It's not easy being the new kid in town, and Roy quickly finds a pair of daunting detractors: Dana (Eric Phillips), the neighborhood bully, and Beatrice (Brie Larson), a soccer enthusiast with a sizeable chip on her shoulder.

Things are rough at first, as Roy endures the requisite hazing from his new classmates, but his social life takes a turn for the better when he notices Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley) dashing by the school bus, racing toward the Everglades. As luck would have it, Mullet (a lamentable name in this age of sensible hairdos) is Beatrice's stepbrother, a runaway who nobly aspires to save endangered owls from a sinister developer (Clark Gregg). Roy takes an interest in Mullet's mission, leading to an inevitable friendship with Beatrice, a striking young blonde who (surprise!) has a well-hidden sensitive side.

Predictably, the rest of Hoot concerns Roy, Beatrice and Mullet's fight for animal rights against insipid capitalist interests, and as family movies go, it's harmless enough, driven by a righteous, if overstated, agenda. But the comedy, despite the presence of seasoned veterans like Luke Wilson and Tim Blake Nelson, is aimed at an audience that doesn't include adults.

Hoot is a bland message movie, stuffed with innocuous stabs at humor that fall flat and plot twists that fly in the face of logic. That's disappointing, considering that Hoot is based on Carl Hiaasen's award-winning book of the same name, but the transition isn't smooth. Lerman and Larson are capable enough as leading actors, and they will undoubtedly graduate to bigger, better projects. Unfortunately, Hoot has its heart in the right place, but its head buried firmly in the forest dirt.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars