Friday 17 November 2023

Ski School (Damian Lee, 1990) Review...

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It's not how far you go, it's how go you far.” Atop Whistler mountain it's the annual Spring Pageant Week and control of the ski slopes is up for grabs with the loser to be banished. With square-jawed preppy jocks on one side and the all-American party dudes on the other, it's Animal House in the snow...!

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I've already put into motion an elaborate plan, a series of events diabolically designed to rid this mountain of you and your Satanic presence forever.” The Whistler mountain All-Star Ski School is a popular destination for those looking to learn the skills to really carve up the white, crystalline powder with the best of them, but there's two schools of thought on how to get there. On the one hand you've got the founder of the ski school, Reid Janssens (Mark Thomas Miller), whose narcissistic self-aggrandisement roars loud and proud of Reagan-era self-interest – and on the other hand you've got smirking freewheeler Dave Marshak (Dean Cameron, Summer School).

Loutish party animals all, Marshak's 'Section 8' ski squad are, in the mold of 1978's Animal House, the beer-chugging Delta Tau Chi frat layabouts to Reid's 'Section 1' Omega Theta Pi youth wing of the Republican-voting Hamptons set. While Section 8 are all about topless parties in day-glo fashion under black light and raucous misbehaviour, Section 1 are the self-proclaimed Gods of Whistler mountain, swanning about in tailored suits at cocktail parties. However, inflated by his own puffed-up sense of ego, Reid makes a crucial error in shafting talented newcomer John E. Roland (Tom Bresnahan, The Brain) with Marshak's band of hooligans.

I'm simply helping a damsel in aerobic distress.” And so it goes – jocks versus jerks, Cristal versus keggers, entitled Yuppies versus hedonistic tricksters – as the competition on the slopes spills over into the chalet hot tubs and saunas. So much like Animal House, is Ski School, that there is even its own version of the notorious Dean Wormer in the form of suit-and-tie stick-in-the-mud Anton Bryce (Mark Brandon), whose consternation at Marshak's 'folk hero' popularity is getting in the way of his attempts at a juicy property deal – he even goes so far at one point as to 'expel' Section 8 from Ski School! How does that make any sense? Don't know, don't care!

Well, I'm not exactly sure what I've learned, but how many of you have seen Paulette butt naked?” Certainly more focused and raunchy than the similarly-themed Hot Dog! The Movie, Ski School merrily bounces along with the usual sort of antics you'd expect from a salacious comedy aimed at teenage boys. Buxom ladies free their proverbials for mountain-top distractions and hot-tub shenanigans alike, while Section 8 brandish their inventive and resourceful prank skills during a humorous hijacking of Reid's video presentation, laying bare Section 1's terror of anything even remotely homoerotic.

Writer David Mitchel certainly has his warring tribes of snow riders clearly marked, with the likes of dimwitted Derek (Spencer Rochfort) and Erich (John Pyper-Ferguson) on Reid's side, and the skirt-chasing duo of Ed (Patrick Labyorteaux, Ghoulies III) and Fitz (Stuart Fratkin, Dr Alien) flanking Marshak all-the-way.

Room two-twenty, where I'm gonna do you.” Naturally, one shouldn't go into this movie expecting any real degree of characterisation beyond the straight-forward clash of yobbos and Yuppies, with the likes of Reid's sort-of-girlfriend Paulette (Charlie Spradling, Puppet Master II), and Roland's good time gals Lori (Darlene Vogel, Back To The Future II) and Victoria (Ava Fabian) only getting limited material to chew on. Further to that, the developments in the plot are so briskly implemented that you'll often find yourself mildly bemused by what is happening or why, more so considering how easily Section 8 brush off their rivals' retaliations, or John's romantic entanglements work out so casually.

Then again, if you're questioning the storytelling rigour of a film such as this, then you're somewhat missing the point – but a little more narrative focus would've helped the audience root for Section 8 more passionately during the occasionally confusing competition sequences. Porkies or American Pie this certainly is not. Released in 1990, Ski School is still very much a youth comedy of the 1980s – so with that in-mind, there should still be fun-to-be-had even for new viewers (assuming they're not of the 'Offendotron' mindset), even if it fails to inhabit the more classic status of, say, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

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