Where are the environmental outlaws of tomorrow coming from? Hoot suggests an answer: junior high.

An adventure in which three kids foil a plan to open a pancake joint on land occupied by adorably endangered owls who live underground, Hoot is based on Carl Hiaasen's book for young readers. Hiaasen's Florida-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket comic mysteries are all about how Disney and greed are wrecking the state, but Hoot is slightly kinder and gentler, more like Florida-is-going-to-heck.

The adults in Hoot (including Hiaasen, who plays an evil restaurant developer's lackey) are so bland that most of their characters don't even merit names, but the kids have tons of personality. Logan Lerman plays a kid who moves to a small Florida town and falls in with Beatrice and Mullet Fingers (Hiaasen likes wacky names), a pair of outsiders who are interested in the environment but not terribly interested in the law.

Eventually, Hoot finds a way for the kids to color within the law's lines and have an effect on their environment. The implication is that, if kids can make something happen on a small scale, maybe their parents can do something about encroaching Wal-Marts or the strip-mining of national parks. That the movie conveys this message while remaining a bright, heartfelt comedy makes it a movie worth giving a hoot about.

Grade: A-