Monday, July 2, 2012


Those who passionately care for this film herald it as a sign of its times, and they might be right. After all, there is no other period in American culture as vapid and hollow as the 90s. There is virtually nothing salvageable here. It's not even so bad it's good. It's a total air sandwich. I know in the past I have said that very rarely are films born without a shred of redemption, and I still stand by that. However, “Side Out” is the anomaly that defies that standard. Almost every aspect of this movie is damaged. The story sucks, the characters are unlikable, and the soundtrack is horrible. Now, I understand, there are some people who will say, “You don’t understand. This came out right about the time I was getting big into volley ball.” To which I must reply with, “Shut the fuck up. No one was ever really into volley ball.” Seriously, was volley ball ever even a thing? I thought that was just some game that nudists played.

The seeds for this movie were most likely contained within that one oiled-up scene from “Top Gun.” In fact, they go so far as to crucify the connection to its audience’s skull by utilizing Kenny Loggins’ “Playing With The Boys” during a tournament montage. Way to jump on the 1986 phenomenon at the height of its momentum in 1990, dickheads. Sadly, this film never goes anywhere near the homoerotic apex of its source, which is one of the film’s main failings. Basically, it’s just not gay enough.

In “Side Out,” C. Thomas Howell plays douchebag Monroe Clark, a mid-western basketball player and law scholar, who’s in California for the Summer to work for his hot-shot litigator Uncle Max (Terry Kiser virtually reprising his Bernie Lomax role here). Monroe is immediately handed the shit task of serving eviction notices, which leads him to the slums of Venice beach. It is there that he becomes entangled with dead beat evictee/former king of the beach Zach Barnes played by Peter Horton, falls for tomato-headed Courtney Thorne Smith, and gets wrangled into playing volley ball on a semi-professional level even though he shows absolutely no inclination toward being good at it.

Initially, Barnes starts coaching Monroe’s team under the condition that he stall his Uncle Max from evicting him by conveniently misplacing paper work back at the office, but then a bunch of stupid shit happens which forces Zach and Monroe to team up for a big tournament.

You may be asking how a box that promises such a bounty of greatness could possibly come up so short, what with the huge ass and C Thomas Howell. There’s a load of potential that was screaming to be harvested, but they spiked the ball here. Instead of anything remotely entertaining, we get an overly complicated vanilla story-line filled with unlikable characters. Everyone is an asshole in this movie, and their failures are pretty much the only thing worth cheering. Each character is a hackneyed mess without integrity, and yet still so bland. No character utters any line of worth anywhere in this movie. A huge part of why they are all so despicable is because they are so goddamn banal.

 As mentioned before, Monroe never really shows any natural athletic ability, even though he is supposed to be some big-shit college basketball player. In fact, he gets his ass handed to him up until he teams up with Peter Horton’s thoroughly loathsome Zach Barnes character.

A little back story here: Barnes was at one time the king of the beach who no-showed a big league tournament, simultaneously destroying his career and fucking over some volley ball promoter who was in love with him I guess. I don’t really know. I really had no will to care. Anyway, at some point Barnes offers to coach Monroe’s team and lead them to victory. After an uneventful montage, Barnes sets up an exhibition game between the new kings of the beach and Monroe’s loser team. The new kings of the beach also happen to be sponsored by the promoter that Barnes fucked over years ago. For some reason, the promoter shows up at Barnes’ house before this big match that means absolutely nothing and fucks him to waylay him from showing up to support his team, thus costing them the match. Only, they would have lost anyway because they are fucking terrible. When Monroe confronts Barnes, the coach is completely apathetic to his plight. Hurt and angry, Monroe then says he’s going to make sure he screws Barnes in court and hands him a summons for his eviction hearing. The next day in court, Barnes is pretty much S.O.L. until Monroe has a change of heart and decides to burn his uncle Max FOR NO APPARENT FUCKING REASON by revealing some loophole that frees Barnes of his obligation to be a responsible, rent-paying adult! And all after his uncle gave him a job in his law office, let him use the company car, and even gave him the keys to his multi-million dollar pool house! Yeah, way to be a prick! I’m really excited to see you win and get the girl, you fucking piece of shit!

Then there’s Courtney Thorne Smith, who is just god awful here. Her character has her fair share of illogical moments, but her performance compounds an already awful script. Pretty much every line she speaks in this movie is uttered in the tone one uses to convey sexual innuendo. Like, she might say “I’m going to go take a shit,” and yet she’d try to make it sound totally suggestive. Not that she ever says she’s going to go hit the brown note in the actual film. None of her dialog is actually that good.

I’ve already touched on this film’s lack of homoeroticism. Not only is this thing clean as a whistle on a surface level, but there’s nothing sleazy lurking beneath its cocoa buttered hide either. No fun at all ANYWHERE! In most 80s films, demonstrations of machismo or male bonding are so vigorous that they come off as totally queer. That’s what makes a film such as the 1987 classic “North Shore” so endlessly fascinating. I’ve seen that film almost fifty times, and I’m still mining homoerotic nuances from its depths. Another thing that “North Shore” also has is a much better subject – surfing. Surfing actually has a subculture of its own, much like skating. A surfer or a skater was distinct during this period because they dressed a certain way, they had jive, and they even had their own respective sub-genres of music. Volley ball on the other hand isn't attached to any particular culture, which is a major reason why this movie is so flavorless. The jargon, the fashion, and the music weren't considered very heavily, so ultimately we end up with a movie where a bunch of tanned douchebags listen to Paula Abdul while playing with balls. Yet somehow this movie still isn’t gay at all. What a paradoxical turd.

All you people heralding this as the greatest movie ever made, even if you’re just being ironic and funny, please, stop. You're only hurting yourselves.

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