MOVIE REVIEW- What a hoot: An environmental movie for tweens

It's easy to take Hoot at face value, as a family-friendly tale of teen environmentalists fighting greedy land developers to save endangered owls.

It's just as easy, in this post-Brokeback era, to see Hoot as a (nonsexual) gay romance, with young male protagonists who would rather hug each other than trees or (ugh!) girls.

At an age when his hormones should be going crazy, Roy Eberhardt (Jack & Bobby's Logan Lerman) can't think of anything but Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley), a barefoot blond boy he first sees outrunning the school bus. Neither rejection nor a bag of snakes dissuades Roy from pursuing M.F. until they become friends.

On the surface, this Disneyesque dramedy is about a new kid in town who gets involved with someone who's trying through civil disobedience to halt the construction of a Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House on a site that's home to a vanishing breed of burrowing owls.

Roy has moved with his parents (Kiersten Warren, Neil Flynn) from Montana to Coconut Cove, Florida, where Trace Middle School is his sixth school in eight years. His loving parents are clueless about Roy's adjustment problems, including being bullied by Dana Matherson (Eric Phillips), who notes his Western wear and dubs him "Cowgirl."

The only girl Roy talks to is Beatrice (Brie Larson), known as "Beatrice the Bear... a major soccer chick with attitude." She bullies the bully, joins in calling Roy "Cowgirl" (albeit with more affection) and generally acts like a dominatrix toward him. When she and Roy travel together by bicycle, he sits on the handlebars while she pedals, and when Beatrice spends an innocent night in his bedroom, she sleeps on the floor. She becomes more feminine as the film progresses, but Roy doesn't notice.

Mullet Fingers remains pretty much gender-neutral but calls Roy "Tex" to make him feel more masculine.
The unscrupulous franchise holder for Mother Paula's is Mr. Muckle (Clark Gregg), who employs an actress (Jessica Cauffiel) to portray the restaurant's namesake. Curly (Tim Blake Nelson) is Muckle's Coconut Cove contractor who has to deal with minor acts of vandalism and seeks help from Officer Delinko (Luke Wilson), a bright young cop who acts like a doofus.

Hoot was adapted from a book by Carl Hiaasen by Hiaasen and director Wil Shriner, whose broad style betrays his background in television. It works because the movie's pitched at viewers too young to appreciate subtlety.

Jimmy Buffett, who contributes some original songs, also appears as Roy's Marine Science teacher. He's around a lot without getting involved in anything that would require him to act, and his presence makes Hoot an owl movie for Parrotheads.