'Hoot,' Heroes, and a Servant’s Heart
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer
Take care of the environment. Break the rules if you need to. Some would say that is the message conveyed by the new film, Hoot (read a review), which features environmentally conscious teenagers attempting to save an endangered species of owls in Florida. But mixed in with the environmentalist extremism, there is a positive message for children.
The teens are led by Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley, Cheaper by the Dozen, Miss Congeniality, My Dog Skip) a boy who has run away from home and lives on his own in an old boatyard. His two peers, Beatrice Leep (Brie Larson, Sleepover) and Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman, The Butterfly Effect, Riding in Cars With Boys, What Women Want), quickly decide to join him once they catch a glimpse of the precious owls that he is trying to save.
The small burrowing owls make their homes in holes in the ground. When the teens discover that a local development site -- set to be the home of a new pancake restaurant -- is full of the tiny owls, they quickly spring into action to stop construction. They move the surveyors’ stakes, flatten the tires of a bulldozer, place alligators in the site’s portable toilets, release Cottonmouth snakes at the construction site, spray paint a police car that the city has provided to keep watch over the site, and take the land developer hostage.
One must wonder if seeing these behaviors rewarded will negatively influence children, but the film’s director, Wil Shriner, defends the teens’ antics in the movie as harmless. “We don’t advocate that kids break the law,” Shriner said. “I don’t see him (Mullet Fingers) as breaking the law. He was just mischievous.”
Whether the movie advocates a soft form of eco-terrorism or not, the filmmakers admit that they do have an agenda. The film is based on a novel written by Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen, a Florida native, said the book was pulled from his own childhood experiences when he and his friends resorted to acts of sabotage to stop a development project and protect burrowing owls that lived on the property. Their attempts were unsuccessful, and a strip mall now sits on that site.
“Even at a very young age, I had a certain amount of anger, frustration, and sadness in seeing this place that I loved so much disappear,” Hiaasen said.
His concern for animals and the environment has continued into adulthood. “Right now, I think it’s roughly 450 acres a day that are disappearing in Florida,” Hiaasen said. “There are many reasons to fight battles, not the least of them being to try and save a place so that your own kids and grandkids can maybe experience one tenth of what you experienced growing up.”
He said that it would be saddening to show future generations this movie and have to say ‘see what it used to look like’ instead of being able to take them there and show them in person. “That’s our secret mission in all of this,” Hiaasen said.
Longtime friend and fishing buddy Jimmy Buffet (yes, that Jimmy Buffet) agreed. “The message of this movie is not only that kids are smarter than adults, but it’s our world that they’re going to inherit, and it’s great to see activism at that early age,” Buffet said. He served as the film’s executive producer and also provided the music for the movie.
Shriner, also a Florida native, shares their concern for the environment. “I grew up where we could swim in our oceans, where we could swim in our canals, and where we could breathe fresh air,” Shriner said. “We have to be proactive in terms of trying to find alternate forms of fuel. We can’t keep polluting. We are going to run out of oil, run out of all our natural resources sooner than later.”
His personal solution to this problem has been the scooter that he rides around the congested streets of Los Angeles. He said the scooter will run for one month on $4 worth of gas.
A Positive Message
While the tactics that the teens use in the film to protect wildlife may be extreme, the movie’s overall message is one that is worthy of attention. Yes, the film focuses on environmental issues, but the point that it makes can be applied to many other areas as well.
Perhaps the best lesson one could take from the movie is the idea that age does not limit one’s ability to be involved in making a community better or taking a stand against injustice.
Sixteen-year-old Larson said she feels that Hoot is “an empowering movie,” which shows kids how to get involved in their communities. “It’s just to help kids think outside of themselves and not just see what’s right outside their window, but what’s even farther than that,” she said.
Co-star Linley, also 16 years old, agreed. “Kids can be heroes too. I think that’s what the movie stands for,” he said.
That is a message that Christian parents can enthusiastically support, regardless of how they feel about environmental activism.
Just as Paul instructed Timothy to not let his age be a hindrance, we also can teach our children that they are never too young to do what is right and be an example to others. “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
There are many ways that children, with a little help from their parents, can see first-hand the difference that their contributions make when they help others. Volunteering at a young age will be a rewarding experience for them, and hopefully establish a pattern of caring for others that they will carry into adulthood. What better way to teach children the value of having a servant’s heart than to work alongside them serving others.
Here are some ways that families can serve together.
- Volunteer at your local homeless shelter.
- Help deliver meals to people who are homebound.
- Visit residents at a local nursing home. Perhaps your children would enjoy making homemade gifts to distribute to the residents when they visit.
- Help an elderly friend or neighbor with yard work, household chores, or trips to the grocery store.
- Pick up garbage at the park, playground, lake, or beach.
- Volunteer at the local animal shelter.
In addition, these organizations offer more opportunities to get involved, both for younger children as well as teenagers.
American Red Cross - Choose your state to see what local volunteering opportunities are available.
FamilyCares - Offers hands-on family projects that help others in need.
Idealist.org - Offers information about volunteering and a searchable database of volunteering opportunities including projects and resources for families.
VolunteerMatch.org - Search for volunteering opportunities by your zip code and area of interest.
The Volunteer Family - An organization dedicated to helping families find volunteering opportunities.
Network for Good - This site allows you to search for volunteering opportunities in your area by field of interest and displays which organizations welcome kids, teens, groups, and seniors.
Cross Cultural Solutions - Volunteer abroad. A program fee is charged to cover expenses.
Hoot opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, May 5. Read a review.
For more information, visit the movie's Web site.
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More articles by Belinda Elliott on CBN.com
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