Directed by Andrew Davis, starring Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Tim Blake Nelson, Shia LaBeouf, Khleo Thomas, Jake M Smith, Byron Cotton, Brenden Jefferson, Miguel Castro, Max Kasch, Noah Poletiek, Eartha Kitt, Patricia Arquette and Dule Hill.

There are no pyrotechnics or pandering to a younger audience in Louis Sachar's adaptation of his children's novel. Faithful to the best-selling book - sometimes too much so - 'Holes' will please fans but may not have such an impact on those unfamiliar with the complexities of Sachar's award-winning work.

Stanley Yelnats IV (LaBeouf) has been unjustly incarcerated in a prison camp for juvenile delinquents where he and the other boys, including tentmates Zero, Zigzag, Armpit, X-Ray, Squid and Magnet, are forced to dig large holes in the desert. Mean-minded bully Mr Sir (a bouffant-wearing Voight) and weasely counsellor Dr Pendanski (Nelson) run the camp for the wicked Warden (Weaver). Although Mr Sir tells Stanley that they are digging to build character - "you take a bad boy, make him dig holes all day in the hot sun, it turns him into a good boy" - the Warden has ulterior motives. She's after the long lost loot that was buried by wild highwaywoman Kissin' Kate Barlow.

With a storyline that shifts between Stanley's present day predicament, his great great grandfather's broken promise to an old gypsy woman (Kitt) in 18th Century Latvia and the forbidden Wild West romance that turned schoolteacher Katherine Barlow (Arquette) into an outlaw, 'Holes' is nothing if not ambitious. However, detail that works in a book does not necessarily translate well to screen and the film suffers from Louis Sachar's overly strict interpretation of his text. Director Andrew Davis, better known for action thrillers such as 'Collateral Damage' and 'Chain Reaction', doesn't have a firm grip on proceedings as his direction veers uncertainly from light-hearted romp to something altogether darker so that the 'Goonie'-like moments ring hollow.

Still, there are great performances from Shia LaBeouf and Khleo Thomas as Zero and plenty of scenery-chewing from central adult trio Sigourney Weaver, Tim Blake Nelson and especially a sunflower seed-spitting Jon Voight. It may be a sprawling oddity but 'Holes', with its focus on storytelling rather than spectacle - unlike Lizzie Maguire, Cody Banks et al - is one of the better kids' films to emerge from Hollywood this year.

Caroline Hennessy