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Saturday, December 27, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 45.0° F  Light Rain
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Hoot
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Walden Media, the bringer of all things feel-good and educational (The Chronicles of Narnia, Because of Winn-Dixie), presents its newest bit of sunshine with the somewhat endearing Hoot. The story follows Roy Eberhardt (the doe-eyed Logan Lerman), a middle-schooler relocated from his beloved Montana to the pristine beaches of Coconut Grove, Florida. As the new kid, Roy faces bullies and more than one critical remark about his cowboy boots.

Eventually, RoyÃ??s only-in-the-movies investigative resolve propels him to explore the identity of a mysterious boy named Mullet Fingers, a sun-bleached teen who sleeps in a boat and lives to protect the Florida wildlife. Meanwhile, a corporate pancake house plans construction on land that happens to be the home to some adorable burrowing owls. A bumbling police officer (Luke Wilson) investigates the incessant pranks designed to halt construction, including crocodiles in the toilets, deflated tires and deadly snakes. We finally learn (surprise!) that Mullet Fingers and his plucky stepsister (Brie Larson) are involved Ã?' their attempt to save the owls.

The film strives to live up to the quirkiness of Carl HiaasenÃ??s novel but falls short. While the book is drenched in HiassenÃ??s wit and aggressive environmentalism, the film emerges as a vanilla comedy, only slightly more interesting than most. Hoot lacks the complexity and humor that made Walden MediaÃ??s Holes such a joy. Still, Lerman is endearing as the spirited lead, and Wilson brings charm to his witless character. First-time producer Jimmy Buffett takes a silly turn as RoyÃ??s marine science teacher and contributes five new recordings to the soundtrack. And ultimately Hoot feels a bit like a Buffett song: kinda fun, but ultimately not contributing anything significant to the world.

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