Quaint vacation spot, the Hawaiian Hideaway is the destination of the Saved by the Bell gang, who are spending a well deserved summer away from Bayside High, books and teachers at Kelly’s (Tiffani Thiessen) grandfather’s hotel. Upon arrival, they learn that a greedy hotel conglomerate is frothing at the mouth to get their hands on the fledgling Hideaway, just weeks away from foreclosure. Moments after arriving from the mainland, the teens run into their Principal, Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins), whom is the figurehead in charge of booking hotels and arranging activities for a principal’s convention taking place on the island. Sensing a way to get Kelly’s grandfather back on his feet, they sabotage the tour’s service at the ritzy, immoral hotel and convince Belding to bring his group to the Hideaway, where they’ve all dedicated their services free of charge to provide the cozy, down to earth retreat with necessary staff. Left without much of a choice, Belding agrees as 40 principal’s vacations are either going to be ruined or saved by the same type of scheming brats they longed to get away from!
Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style differentiates itself from the TV series by taking on a more serious, mature tone. The gang is a year away from graduation and finds themselves in scenarios they never encountered back in California. Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Kelly are the focal points of this TV movie and each go through a certain, small coming of age in the tropics, while Slater (Mario Lopez), Lisa (Lark Voorhees), Jesse (Elizabeth Berkely) and to a lesser degree Screech (Dustin Diamond), take a backseat and essentially reprise their characters and gags from television. Always on the prowl, Zack finds himself a love interest early on in Andrea (Rene Sofer), a black-haired goddess whom he learns has a small child. Cute as a button Kelly ends up falling for a too-good-to-be-true lawyer who aids her grandfather in his ongoing case against the corporation hell bent on driving him out of business.
While these two former lovebirds have stood in the face of adversity and emotional heartbreak before (oftentimes thanks to one another), seeing Zack fall for both a mother and a small child captures your attention just to see how he’ll handle it. It’s rather heavy, especially without the oos and ahs of a laugh track. Featuring a few funny and goofy moments, Hawaiian Style nonetheless feels like a maturing, extended episode of the TV show, treading near romantic comedy waters. With two short weeks to spend in Hawaii, Zack and Andrea have important decisions to make and while it’s excusably no Casablanca or even Ghost, seeing how and why the two will make their final decisions is enough to stick around until credits roll. The writing is a little off throughout; it’s no surprise that Zack would fall for a 21 year old MILF, but having underage Kelly go out with an at least 25 year old lawyer is rather absurd. I used to have a big crush on Kelly when I was a kid, and Thiessen never looks better than she does all tanned and toned in Hawaii.
The gang encounters rocky roads in trying to please the customers with trips that leave guests stranded at sea, stuck in the woods, and… well, it’s a good thing Elizabeth Berkley can climb the pole because she sure can’t cook. In a quirky subplot, Screech is believed to be the descendent of a Polynesian tribal hero who foretold that one of his ancestors would return and save the band in their darkest hour. The hour was certainly upon them, as the corporation is running them off their land too. Saved By the Bell: Hawaiian Style is a sweet little picture with lots of great bikini bods, hot, wet cinematography and cute & innocent teenage love. It’s one of those happy and sad movies that places emphasis on how easy it is to say hello and how tough it is to say goodbye. Only by saying it Hawaiian Style does the meaning come full circle – aloha, brudda. (Brett H.)
Tale of the Tape:
7 out of a possible 10 inches.