Judge Lacey Worrell says that if you want escapist surfing entertainment, you should eat a bag of pork rinds. At least, that's what I've come to understand.
Surf. Sun. Sex. Score!
Watching Side Out is kind of like eating a bag of greasy pork rinds. You know it's really, really bad for you, but you just can't tear yourself away.
Facts of the Case
Monroe Clark (C. Thomas Howell, Soul Man) is leading a double life. He has a day job serving eviction notices for his wealthy real-estate lawyer uncle, and he's also enamored of the California Lifestyle. You know—neon clothing, Cuervo, and gorgeous blondes in wet suits. At least that's how Side Out depicts it. Anyway, Monroe discovers he has a penchant for beach volleyball, and before you can say "Spike it!!" he's entering big money tournaments with his new buddy, Wiley.
Enter former king of the beach, Zack Barnes (Peter Horton, thirtysomething), who is not only a deadbeat tenant (guess who has to serve him with papers?) but who also just happens to be a totally radical volleyball player. A few predictable plot twists later, Zack and Monroe are entering a big money tournament together and, according to the back of the DVD case, ready to "learn how much fun success…and teamwork…can truly be." Alrighty then.
Monroe also hooks up with a young cocktail waitress / marine biology student, played by Courtney Thorne-Smith, although their romance is merely window dressing to the central goal of winning that tournament. Pro-circuit stars Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos also make an appearance as, well, volleyball players.
While this film is moderately enjoyable, and I admit I find myself tuning in every time it runs on the good old satellite's Love Stories channel, it shamefully steals from other films and makes no effort to try and hide it. There is a running-along-the-beach training sequence, a coach-who-did-a-bad-thing-in-the-past element, a sunset love scene, and the most heinous violation of the "thou shalt not steal scenes from other movies" commandment: during one early beach volleyball scene, the song "Playing with the Boys" can be heard! I mean, everyone knows that that song is as central to the plot of Top Gun as "Danger Zone" is!
It's just so obvious. What person…specifically, what red-blooded American woman…can forget those wonderful couple of minutes in 1986 when she first laid eyes on the Top Gun volleyball scene while "Playing with the Boys" filled her ears? Where are Slider, Maverick, and Iceman when you need them? I'd include Goose, but he lost points because he kept his shirt on. The volleyball action was such a nice distraction from all those pesky fighter jet scenes.
Apparently the makers of Side Out thought the same thing, because they used the same song. And it's just too obvious. Kenny Loggins is a prolific songwriter, and I'm sure he would have written them a new one if they had just asked nicely.
The other problem here is the script. The actors themselves aren't necessarily bad, but they aren't given much to work with. The characters are for the most part one-dimensional, the delineation between good guys and bad guys is almost cartoonishly clear, and the dialogue is full of bad clichés.
Look for Kathy Ireland in a small role as a secretary, and you may remember Terry Kiser, Monroe's uncle, as the dead guy in Weekend at Bernie's. His role in Side Out is a fairly mundane one, peppered with greedy giggles each time he decides to evict another tenant. Kiser had much more to work with playing a dead person.
In her pre-Melrose Place days, Courtney Thorne-Smith played a similar role as a young Florida desk clerk in Revenge of the Nerds II; which truth be told, is such a better movie. You've got the whole Greek Council aspect, a kickin' opening song by .38 Special, and a group of underdogs to really root for!
Side Out is occasionally entertaining though wholly unoriginal. The next time a blizzard is predicted and you're looking for a DVD to help you escape somewhere sunny and warm, try Blue Crush instead.
If you really, really want to see this film, try to find a way to do it where you don't actually have to spend any money on a rental or purchase. That will help to alleviate the guilt.
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