The Crushed Film Festival presents: Side Out
by Sarah D. Bunting
The Movie: Side Out
The Crush Object(s): Peter Horton
The Story: Aspiring lawyer and college basketball star Monroe Clark (Howell) comes to L.A. to make his fortune in his rich uncle's foreclosure business…but winds up teaming instead with beach-volleyball legend/hippie flake Zach Barnes (Horton) to pursue a championship.Kenny Loggins sings lustily, while Courtney Thorne-Smith resists Monroe's "charms" until the third act.Also, there is a wacky sidekick in a vintage hat.Can Clark and Barnes pull off the upset of the beach-volleyball century?Have you…ever seen a movie before?
Side Out is quite a bit less awful and boring than you might expect — it's kind of nice, for example, that Samantha (Thorne-Smith) isn't bimbonic and one-dimensional, and although the plot treats beach volleyball like an epic clash of fabled titans, at least it keeps things moving.
But it's still bad, not least because it asks the audience to see Barnes as a fallen hero in need of redemption, versus the cocker-spaniel-haired, irresponsible twonk he actually is; to care about his on-again-off-again relationship with former manager/fashion designer/bitter pill Kate (Harley Jane Kozak, forced to deliver fashion-show patter about the hottest new trend in beachwear: neon); and to endure the worst in late-'80s SoCal casualwear.The cut-off sleeveless shorts, the cavernous traffic-cone-colored Umbros, the incredibly dark tans on the extras…and that's just the men.
Side Out does have one thing to recommend it: an all-time-classic slo-mo celebration montage at the end, complete with incredibly long "yeeeaaaaaahhhhhh" cheers from all the people with speaking parts.The "yeeeaaaaaahhhhhh"s are synced to the slowed-down action onscreen (namely the characters, to a man, leaping into the air and yelling with their mouths open as far as they could go), but are heard at regular speed — which means the actors had to go in and loop extra-long shouts of victory after principal shooting.Even the Rocky movies didn't take their climaxes this seriously.The slo-mo shots also allow us to enjoy Howell's and Horton's armpit hair for like twenty minutes.(See also: the endless slo-mo shot of Clark and Barnes's opponent taking an operatic digger in the sand to lose the match on a spike by Horton's stunt double.Legs a-flailin', face a-contortin', sand a-flyin', continents a-driftin' — we get it, guys.Really.Cut already.)
The Backstory: My crush on C. Thomas Howell dated from The Outsiders but had faded by 1990, and while he gives a likable performance here (ironically, given the scrawny script, Howell's acting is pretty good), Horton is the primary reason I watched this clanker every time it came on cable back in the day — and it came on eeeeeevery weekend.
I looooooooved Horton; I watched thirtysomething just for him, despite hating almost every other character with a murderous passion, and when Gary Shepherd got killed, I cried.But Horton seemed to play that character almost exclusively, the simultaneously whiffy and condescending artiste or academic, so focused on his work or his craft that he couldn't make time for you…except to cheat on you or make your own dreams sound unserious.The trademark hippie smugness is especially egregious here, when he's playing a fallen beach-volleyball champ who's in trouble with bookies.…You heard me.
The Embarrassment Level: The movie isn't so much bad as irrelevant, and while Horton's sex scene is not perfect (…Kozak), it justifies my crush somewhat.But! Not enough. Six out of 10.
Tags: C. Thomas Howell Courtney Thorne-Smith movies Peter Horton Rocky Balboa The Crushed Film Festival unearned self-importance