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O. C. LIVE | KIDS ON FILM

'White Squall': Falling for the Crew of 'Throbs, Hook, Line and Sinking : In "White Squall," a humorless taskmaster (Jeff Bridges) who sets sail in 1960 with a group of troubled preppies is blamed when their brig capsizes and six people drown. (Rated PG-13)

February 08, 1996|LYNN SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They're young, hot and shirtless. They're celluloid bait for schools of 14-year-old girls.

"Do you know how many guys are in this movie?" one 14-year-old asked her friends on the way to the show. "Yeah," replied another, "A shipful!"

Thirteen to be exact. So many, that in the end the girls had to resort to descriptions--"the one who was in 'Hey, Dude,' " "the guy who was afraid of heights," or "the guy who died."

The exception, of course, was TV heartthrob Scott Wolf, known to nearly all as Bailey, the orphaned high school jock on "Party of Five" and promoted in fan magazines as the guy with "drop-dead dimples."

As high school senior Chuck Gieg, Wolf narrates the film with coming-of-age observations ("Bad things happen, and sometimes there's nothing you can do about it") and meaningful squints at the horizon that recalled a young Tom Cruise.

The resemblance was so striking that those who obviously don't watch enough television were understandably confused.

"I totally thought he was Tom Cruise at first!" said Holly Robison, 14, part of a group from Irvine. "Halfway into the movie, I'm like, Bailey!"

Another group of girlfriends from Irvine said that even though they came to see guys, their attention was ultimately diverted by the sudden, violent storm of the title, the underwater deaths of those trapped in the ship, the boys' relationships and their loyalty to their hard-driving captain, Christopher Sheldon.

"It was intense," said Jenna Chiodo, 15.

"I was crying," said Koryn Delbenes, 14.

Adults may side with film critics who found the film flawed by cliches and cardboard characters, but several youths--boys included--were moved to tears.

Based on a true story, the film has the boys bonding like Superglue while en route to the Caribbean, where they share individual struggles, pursue females in port, and become a disciplined team of sailors. Who caused the ship to capsize remains unclear, but the boys rally around Sheldon with the same words he taught them: "Where we go one, we go all."

Erin Lewis, 14, who was among a group of Tustin girls, said "it was very inspiring. I'm really frightened about the natural forces of the Earth from this movie. Also, it was very sad to know that young lives were cut short."

Mostly, she said, "I like seeing things about what adolescents go through and what they think." Much of what these boys think, when it's not about separating from their pin-striped fathers, is, coincidentally, about girls.

Surprised the movie was so good, Casey Verst, 11, of Tustin, said what he liked best was "the acting and the drama."

His friend, Mike Cook, 11, also of Tustin, said he liked the movie too, but was upset at the fate of a dolphin, first harpooned by one of the more twisted preppies, then bludgeoned to death by the skipper because the creature would not have survived.

Stephanie Packard, 13, of Tustin, also had a problem with the movie. "Even though it was a true story, at the end, it was a little too dramatic."

Even so, she said seeing Wolf as a manly seaman was a treat. "He plays kind of a wimp in 'Party of Five.' "

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