A heavy-handed family meller crossed with a two-bit Hardy Boys whodunit, Karl Kozak's "Out of the Black" is a hopelessly earnest after-school special of a movie that seems engineered for auds who lament that "they don't make 'em like they used to" -- that is, if they used to make 'em this hackneyed and clunky and embarrassingly poorly acted.

A heavy-handed family meller crossed with a two-bit Hardy Boys whodunit, Karl Kozak’s “Out of the Black” is a hopelessly earnest after-school special of a movie that seems engineered for auds who lament that “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” — that is, if they used to make ‘em this hackneyed and clunky and embarrassingly poorly acted. Entirely Pittsburgh-lensed pic has attractive Allegheny scenery, but while Kozak and his camera may be natural dance partners, he seems to have two left feet when it comes to actors and dialogue.

Brothers Cole (Tyler Christopher) and Patrick Malby (Jason Widener) care for their invalid mother (Sally Kirkland) 15 years after a mysterious accident claimed the life of their miner father (Miles O’Keefe). The family’s small farm is about to be sold off by the landlord’s gold-digging widow (Dee Wallace Stone). Story makes daytime soaps seem narratively uncluttered by comparison. Aside from Kirkland, other name thesps are ill-used in virtual cameo parts, while newcomers Christopher and Widener mug for the camera like acting school castoffs.

Out of the Black

Production

A Diversa Films presentation in association with DeLaurentiis Prods. and Crossroads Films. Produced by Victor Lou, Michael Gonzales, Karl Kozak. Executive producers, Phillip Yordan, William A. Newsom, Raymond Roncari. Co-producers, Bill Bragg, Gary Dubie. Directed by Karl Kozak. Screenplay, Kozak, Joel Eisenberg, Mary Plummer.

Crew

Camera (FotoKem color), Maximo Munzi; editor, Robert Pergament; music, Larry Groupe; production designer, Rando Schmook; costume designer, Diane Collins; sound, Jim Emswiller; associate producers, Robert C. Hugley, Andrew McNaughton, Daniel Evans, Linda Showman, Craig Summers; assistant director, Steve Parys; casting, Karen Armstrong. Reviewed at Dances With Films, L.A., July 25, 2001. Running time: 103 MIN.

With

Tyler Christopher, Sally Kirkland, Dee Wallace Stone, Jack Conley, Jacqueline Aries, Jason Widener, Allison Lange, Sally Struthers, Michael J. Pollard, John Capodice, Miles O'Keefe, Tom Atkins, Tommy La Fitte.
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