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When I first started covering director Tony Tang’s 2011 romantic sports flick “Beach Spike”, I thought the premise was unbearably hokey, akin to those sleazy direct-to-video “National Lampoon’s” movies that seem to worm their way to surface every year or so. However, as my interest grew, I began to suspect that “Beach Spike” was more a teen-oriented actioner than something intentionally geared towards those who spend too much time festering in their soiled underwear during daylight hours. Imagine my complete and utter surprise when the movie turned out to be something genuinely enjoyable from start to finish. Yes, it features an abundance of scantily-clad women, and, yes, the film spends too much time rumbling around with romance than it does volleyball, but that’s precisely why it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
The story is something straight out of 80’s American cinema: When the residents of a beach side community are forced to leave by a greedy developer, the fate of the village rests on the shapely shoulders of two beach volleyball enthusiasts. In order to save themselves from eventual eviction, the duo must battle the developer’s talented daughters at an action-packed beach volleyball tournament. If they want to keep their homes intact, they’ll have to take home the championship title. In order to prepare for the fight of their respective lives, our impossibly skinny heroines will undergo rigorous kung fu training, including a mind-boggling underwater sequence involving chains and martial arts. Hey, I never said this thing wasn’t dopey and utterly ridiculous.
Sandwiched in-between all of this sports-related nonsense are subplots involving a rocky romance between one of our attractive volleyball players and the son of the aforementioned developer, a relationship which angers his sisters to no end. These interpersonal tensions often explode into weakly-choreographed fight scenes, all of which seem like a complete afterthought. Naturally, one particular encounter results in an unfortunate injury, one that threatens the outcome of the tournament for our heroines. Will they overcome this adversity to save their cozy little village from certain doom? Don’t pretend like you don’t know the answer. “Beach Spike” is as predictable as an “ABC After School Special”, complete with an impossibly happy ending that, ultimately, feels like a cop-out than a satisfactory conclusion to this empty-headed tale of bikinis and perseverance.
The film excels at being utterly moronic, and that’s easily its strongest asset. Had “Beach Spike” treated its premise too seriously, none of this would have worked. It’s an 80’s action/comedy through and through, complete with lots of close-ups of the female anatomy, syrupy romantic subplots, colorful characters, and so many illogical moments that you’ll wonder if this story takes place in an alternate dimension. You expect Corey Feldman or Joe Estevez to pop out at any moment. As an unabashed fan of the “Police Academy” franchise, I find this sort of blatant stupidity endearing, especially when it’s treated as disposable, throwaway cinema. This is just a easy-to-swallow time-waster, nothing more. Chances are you won’t remember a damned thing about it 24 hours after consumption. Expecting anything more is just silly, though I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss the film altogether. It’s wonkiness is almost charming.
Director Tony Tang’s “Beach Spike” is a mildly-rewarding kung fu beach volleyball flick featuring an impressive collection of impossibly skinny individuals and an abundance of dodgy, misguided romance. There’s a bit too much syrupy melodrama for my liking, though the film’s “USA’s Up All Night” mentality its penchant for dodgy action sequences ease the pain of the script’s goofier moments. Of course, I grew up watching “Saved by the Bell” and “Fifteen”, so I have a ridiculously high tolerance for the trials and tribulations of the young and heavyhearted. Besides, enduring this colorful display of cinematic silliness is a drop in the bucket when compared to how entertaining the whole sand-encrusted affair truly is. “Beach Spike” is simple fun, and if approached as such, should please those who like their kung fu comedies laced with unintentional camp. Oh, and I did I mention the abundance of slow motion? I’m sure I did.
Tony Tang (director) / Tony Tang, Davina To (screenplay)
CAST: Jessica Cambensy … Natalie
Phoenix Chou … Natasha
Chrissie Chow … Sharon
Theresa Fu … Rachel
Chi-Sing Lam … Water
Suet Lam … Water-Father
Chung Him Law … Tim
Meng Lo … Mr. Tao