The film is about a group of children trying to save a burrowing owl habitat from destruction. The habitat is located on the intended construction site of a pancake house. The developer of the project intends to proceed regardless of the environmental damage it would cause. Hoot features live burrowing owls and music by Jimmy Buffett. Buffett is also listed as a co-producer, and he played the role of Mr. Ryan, the science teacher.
Middle school student Roy A. Eberhardt (Logan Lerman) and his family have just moved to Coconut Cove, Florida from Montana. But Roy is mercilessly teased and bullied at his new school by Dana Matherson, until he accidentally breaks Matherson's nose while getting harassed on the school bus. Roy gets suspended from riding the school bus for three days and must write Dana an apology letter. Roy slowly becomes friends with Beatrice "The Bear" Leep (Brie Larson), and her stepbrother, "Mullet Fingers" (Cody Linley).
Meanwhile, someone is responsible for vandalism on a local construction site where a "Mother Paula's Pancake House" restaurant, overseen by corrupt regional manager Chuck Muckle (Clark Gregg), is about to be built. In order to catch the vandals and prevent further vandalism, Officer David Delinko (Luke Wilson) has parked his police cruiser on the building site. Delinko falls asleep and an unknown vandal vandalizes the car by spray painting its windows with black spray paint. The next day at breakfast, Roy and his parents read about the spray painted police car. The police chief then gives Delinko a small police scooter to replace the vandalized cruiser.
Soon, it is learned that in order to build the pancake house, they must first destroy the burrowing owls living on site. Mullet Fingers, Beatrice and Roy embark on a crusade to save the endangered owls. Mullet Fingers continually sabotages construction efforts on the site. Leroy 'Curly' Branitt (Tim Blake Nelson), the inept construction foreman, is trying to keep the construction schedule going, despite the presence of the owls.
In the end, the trio reveals to Delinko and the rest of the town that there are burrowing owls on the lot. They then manage to get everyone to be quiet long enough for the owls to emerge, and Muckle is subsequently arrested by Delinko. The construction site eventually becomes an owl preserve.
Ultimately Roy's parents decide to stay in Florida, Officer Delinko finally gets promoted to detective, Dana goes to military camp, Muckle does community service for months, and Roy continues to be friends with Beatrice and Mullet Fingers.
The principal filming locations were in Fort Lauderdale and Lauderdale by the Sea, on Florida's Atlantic Coast, and the Gulf Coast hamlet of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island. Most of Hoot was shot in Florida between July 6, 2005 and September 2, 2005. Some new scenes were shot in Los Angeles on January 21, 2006. For example, the scene where Mullet Fingers leaps out of a tree after dropping a bulldozer seat was actually shot in Los Angeles. Hoot was shot during hurricane season, and the set did not escape Hurricane Katrina, which struck Southern Florida on August 25, 2005. Brie Larson and Cody Linley were moved from their beach-front hotel (Marriott Harbor Beach) to another hotel because of the storm.
New Line and Walden Media pushed the film's initial release date of April 14, 2006 back to May 5, 2006, as only Mission: Impossible III and An American Haunting were opening wide that weekend. The gambit failed and Hoot opened at #10 at the U.S. and Canadian box office on 3,018 screens. The film's opening U.S. and Canadian box office was $3.4 million. Hoot held on at #10 for its second week then the movie broke a record set by Gigli for biggest drop in cinemas screening the film as it lost 2200 screens and came in at #19 on its third weekend. The film grossed $8,224,998 worldwide. In 2007, Walden Media's The Seeker: The Dark is Rising nudged Hoot into second place in terms of 'biggest theatre drops'. Hoot topped The Seeker: The Dark is Rising in reaching number one in the "worst super-saturated (3000 plus screens)" openings in the US and Canada: Hoot opened in almost 42% of all screens. The film's production budget was $15 million, although the costs for such a wide opening would probably have made the film considerably more expensive to distribute than it was to produce - the cost of its prints would have been twice as much as the production budget, according to respected industry opinions. Hoot entered the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in 2009.
DVD sales were more successful than the box office gross. The DVD was released on August 15, 2006 and sold 114,528 units, bringing in $2,058,068 in the opening weekend.
A newer figure indicates that 703,786 units have been sold, translating to $10,972,266 in revenue.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "rotten" rating of 26% and a Metacritic score of 46 ("mixed or average reviews"). One of the most positive reviews came from the Boston Globe's Ty Burr (3 stars out of 4), saying, "Hoot tells kids they can make a difference in this world, and that's worth a hundred Ice Age 2s." San Francisco Chronicle's Ruthe Stein gave the film a positive review (3 stars out of 4) and said, "...the film does nothing to dilute the save-the-Earth-and-every-creature-on-it message of Carl Hiaasen's ingeniously plotted award-winning children's book." Roger Ebert gave Hoot 1.5 stars (out of 4) and included Hoot in his 2007 book - Your Movie Sucks - where he says "'Hoot' has its heart in the right place, but I have been unable to locate its brain" and "... the kids (especially Mullet Fingers) are likeable but not remotely believable". Michael Medved panned Hoot (2 stars out of 4) saying that "...the lame plot centers around a greedy developer who wants to bulldoze a lot inhabited by rare burrowing owls" and "though I'd like to root for 'Hoot', its entertainment value is moot".
Logan Lerman, who played the lead role of Roy Eberhardt, won a Young Artist Award for his performance in Hoot. He received the nomination & win in early 2007 for Best Performance in a Feature Film - Leading Young Actor.
The soundtrack of Hoot (as appears on the accompanying soundtrack CD) has three elements: an original score, pop songs sung by a variety of artists, and pop songs (covers and originals) sung by Jimmy Buffett. The original score "Happy Ending" was composed by Mac McAnally, Michael Utley and Phil Marshall.
The pop songs sung by a variety of artists are:"Lovely Day" - performed by Maroon 5, featuring Bill Withers and Kori Withers. Written & originally performed by Bill Withers.
"Back of the Bus" - performed by G Love and Special Sauce. Written by Garrett Dutton.
"Let Your Spirit Fly" - performed by Ry Cuming. Written by Ry Cuming.
"Coming Around" - performed by Brie Larson. Written by Brie Larson, Jacques Brautbar and Rami Perlman.
"Funky Kingston" - performed by Toots & the Maytals. Written by Frederick Hibbert.
"Florida" - performed by Mofro. Written by John J.J. Grey.
The songs sung by Jimmy Buffett are:"Barefootin'" - performed by Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson. Written & originally performed by Robert Parker.
"Floridays" - performed by Jimmy Buffett. Written by Jimmy Buffett.
"Good Guys Win" - performed by Jimmy Buffett. Written by Mac McAnally and Roger Guth.
"Werewolves of London" - performed by Jimmy Buffett. Written by LeRoy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel and Warren Zevon; originally performed by Warren Zevon.
"Wondering Where the Lions Are" - performed by Jimmy Buffett. Written & originally performed by Bruce Cockburn.