The Highlight Reel

    “Brink” and “Alley Cats Strike”: an unlikely pair-up

    Nick Porisch

    More stories from Nick Porisch

    The Highlight Reel
    May 10, 2023
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    Photo by Marisa Valdez

    Image copyright Walt Disney Pictures

    I’m not sure how exactly this happened, but I watched two Disney Channel Original sports movies this week.

    The first was intentional. I sat down with my roommates last night and tossed “Brink,” the 1998 classic about the radical world of competitive inline skating, on in the background while I made chili for everyone.

    To be honest, I missed the first half of the movie while I worked on chili, but my roommates filled me in after I wrapped up our admittedly delicious dinner.

    After “Brink” ended (I will be talking more about “Brink” later), something strange happened. 

    One of my roommates decided to go to bed because he had “class” the next day and “didn’t want to waste another two hours of his time.” My other roommate and I, however, noticed something odd in the suggested queue of movies beneath “Brink.”

    The thumbnail showed a group of 14-year-olds bowling… and having a blast. We had never seen this thumbnail in the sports section of Disney+ before, and the idiosyncratic name immediately pulled us in.

    We decided to just watch the first 10 minutes of 2000s “Alley Cats Strike” out of curiosity, but immediately got sucked in for the whole 90-minute affair.

    “Brink” and “Alley Cats Strike” are both very different and oddly similar films.

    One is about an incredibly awesome, incredibly 90s extreme sport, and the other is about perhaps the least extreme sport known to mankind, bowling. 

    “Brink” follows the journey of the titular character, Andy “Brink” Brinker, as he grapples with who he is and why he pursues the sport he does.

    He has a group of fellow rollerblader friends, including the talented Gabriella and the comedic relief, Peter, who is always griping about his step-dad Jerry.

    “I have a mom, and I have a Jerry,” Peter said. “You do the math. That’s one parent.”

    Brink’s dad, though, isn’t able to work at his job on the construction site because of an injury, and the family’s tight on money. So, Brink abandons his friends to join Team X-Bladez, the top-ranked inline skating team in the country.

    However, the team are total jerks, and things come to a head when the captain of X-Bladez puts gravel on a racetrack in order to send Gabriella into a gnarly wipeout.

    Brink and his dad have an honestly really effective scene about defining yourself by who you are and not what you do, and Brink rejoins his friends for the national tournament, eventually beating his former captain in a final showdown.

    In “Alley Cats Strike,” a significantly lower budget and stranger movie, we follow Alex, the son of a struggling bowling alley owner.

    Alex spends his days with his group of misfit bowling pals, living in the shadow of more popular sports, dominated by local star Todd McLemore. In case you were wondering, yes, it is pronounced the same as Macklemore.

    Long, winding story short, a local tournament with the rival school comes down to a bowling competition, Todd joins the team, Alex leaves his friends behind to become a popular kid and they all come together in the end to defeat the rival school.

    There’s also an absolutely awesome bowling-alley-party scene and another great father-son scene about the importance of choosing your friends over competition.

    At the end of the day, these two very different films are both about similar core things.

    The leader of a group of misfits leaves behind their friends in pursuit of victory, popularity, or money, before having a pivotal conversation with their dad about the value of fun and friendship, then rejoining their group and taking the victory.

    Both movies remind us that sports are about community, fun and friendship, and that those are the best prizes one can win. Truthfully, both movies handle this theme pretty effectively.

    If there’s one thing this accidental experiment truly taught me, though, it’s that these movies can definitely get pretty reiterative. Is it bad to iterate on something if it’s true, though?

    I don’t know, but it’s kind of boring.

    Porisch can be found at [email protected].