HOOT (Will Shriner). 90 minutes. Opens Friday (May 5). For venues and times, see Movies, page 105. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Though it's pitched at older kids and younger teens, sharp-minded comedy thriller Hoot offers ample adult wit and character comedy, largely because director Will Shriner has done a good job of translating source author Carl Hiaasen 's Dave-Barry-meets-Elmore-Leonard sensibility to the screen. It's a shopworn premise: young teens battle a corporate meanie. But Hiaasen's solid structure draws us into the story via the plausible tribulations of the new kid in town (a likeable Logan Lerman ), then springs some nice little twists.
Shriner's direction moves briskly, but he allows for some good set pieces and lots of comic character moments set against the pleasant casual atmosphere of the rural Florida locations. Best of all, he undersells both the comedy and the obligatory noble sentiment so we never feel condescended to and nothing feels forced.
The cast walks a fine line between character and caricature. Luke Wilson as the doofus cop on the case is particularly adept at revealing the brain inside the yokel. Young veterans Lerman, Brie Larson and Cody Linley are energetic and skilled enough to carry the show. Jimmy Buffett , who produced along with Hiaasen and Shriner and penned some songs, does an amiably low-key turn as the science teacher.