26 November 2003 | rsoonsa
UPS AND DOWNS ON AND OFF THE COURT.
The extreme difficulty of earning a position as a member of the United States men's national volleyball team is at the core of this production, and in that respect it is quite absorbing, but since it is not a documentary but a feature film, instances of personal crises among team members are dramatized, with less success. The film opens with scenes depicting receival of written invitations to try out for the team by three young men in Southern California, one a medical student, the others denizens of the local (San Diego) volleyball subculture. The med student receives bad news that he is cut from the squad and thereafter emphasis is upon the remaining pair, long-time friends Sonny (Stephen Burns) and Catch (Patrick Houser) and their endeavour to handle the unconventional and rigorous training methods developed by the team's coach, played by Michael Parks. Sonny is a confirmed reveler and this generates trouble with the coach, whereas Catch is more dedicated but is cumbered by a romantic entanglement; still another relationship problem faces the veteran of the team, 33 year old Newt (Christopher Allport) and his discontented wife (Jo McDonnell). This is enough off-court activity to detract attention from the undertaking by the youths to gain acceptance to the organization, but the list grows with another subplot involving an attempt by Catch to smuggle documents into the U.S. for a would-be Polish emigrant. Actual competition footage is included from Europe and Japan, presenting an opportunity to watch the Olympic gold-medal winners, prominent in the cast, in action against top-flight international squads. Here is where genuine excitement rests; however, dramatic conflicts of the characters take up the greatest share of the scenario, while poor writing and indifferent production values lower the film's worth, although Parks creates his role with a fine touch and timing.