Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ski School (1991)

Directed by Damian Lee
Starring Dean Cameron, Stuart Fratkin, Charlie Spradling
Rated R
Buy poster

"You may be able to disqualify us, but you cannot stop us from doing the Lambada."

First off, I just want to say that the title does not work for me. That's probably entirely circumstantial; I live in Boston, a frigid, always-wintry, life-sapping place, and if the teen sex comedy is about escape - and it is - than I certainly do not want to escape to some friggin' snow covered mountain. So there's that. You, however, may already live someplace sensible and warm, so perhaps a wild weekend in the mountains with snowbunnies and dirty rotten slopes-schemers sound fun and exotic. It is for you, then, that I suffer the indignity of watching a movie about snow while shivering in a dirty, slush-choked, mid-winter wasteland.

Ski School arrived at the very tail-end of the classic teen sex comedy era. By 1992, when grunge and indie-cinema and sad-eyed adolescent grousing became the norm, goofy teen romps went the way of glam metal and monster trucks. I mean, can you imagine Ski School competing with Reservoir Dogs or Romper Stomper? It was suddenly a much different planet, one spackled with ennui and ultra-violence, and so the teen sex comedy went underground for nearly a decade, until American Pie brought boobs n' food fights roaring back into the public's consciousness. Ski School was a last gasp, a blatant refusal to accept the inevitable. Ski School did not skip school to see Malcolm X. Ski School skipped school to ski down a fuckin' mountain, Jack. Naked. As such, even if you happen to hate skiing and schools and snow, and I do, you still have to hand it to Mr. Lee and his crew of nubiles and loudmouths - they fought the good fight. They kept it stupid when stupid had already lost the culture war.

There is a pair of softball-sized tits on display 50 seconds into Ski School's opening credit sequence which also, incidentally, features a piping synth score straight out of 1984. Both would suggest we are in for a good, moronic time. Ski School never quite maintains the mountain-scraping heights of it's opening moments, but it does try.

The plot is set-up within two minutes: the rich asshole ski-squad (Section 1, naturally), led by a preppy skunk named Reid (Mark Thomas Miller), are pitched against the slightly less-rich slacker ski squad, dubbed Section 8, led by one dude with bushy eyebrows (Dean Cameron, Summer School, Fast Times the Series) and another dude with an earring (Stuart Fratkin, Valet Girls). There's gonna be some sort of monumental ski race at some point. It's sort of like Summer Camp (1979), only with more hot tubs.

Great. Any subplots? Sure. Earring kid has the hots for Reid's melon-chested girlfriend Paulette (Charlie Spradling). That'll cause sparks!

There's also some sort of executive-level intrigue, something about getting rid of Section 8 and promoting Reid to King Douchebag or whatever. You know how that goes. Mostly, it a neon-colored mélange of ski footage (usually with Lock-up, Tom Morello's pre-Rage Against the Machine band, erm, raging in the background) and often confusing pranks, courtesy the Section 8 crew. At one point, they hypnotize their dim-witted, monster genital-ed buddy to give up sex, for example. In another, they fool the rich kids' girlfriends into doing the Lambada with each other, and later on, they start a snowball fight in the cafeteria. None of this seemed particularly funny or even all that prank-y to me, but maybe it is. Maybe it's ski humor.
Oh, and there's also a bit where a mysterious woman named Victoria (Ava Fabian, Delta Fever) shows up and seduces Section 8's star skier, John E (Tom Bresnahan). She's a talent scout or something. She takes her shirt off. It looks pretty good.

So, the King of the Mountain shows up and tells Section 8 he plans on tossing them out of ski school because of their capering and buffoonery. They have an emergency meeting to figure out what to do. They decide on an apocalyptic party. The next day, during the races, the pricks in Section 1 sabotage our party-hearty heroes, further damaging their chances of winning the annual ski-off and saving the mountain for beer-swilling, virgin-killing ne'er do wells everywhere. Section 8 gets expelled from Ski School (is that possible?), but they decide to crash the climactic ski race anyway. They ski down the mountain on cases of beer. Everybody cheers. The King of the Mountain says they can join the race if they "Calm down their antics". They agree, but do not calm down their antics at all. Instead, they launch a series of Wile E Coyote-esque gags to bedevil the snooty dudes and woo their women.

Do they pull it off? Yes, of course they do.

In summation: The charismatic leads carry an otherwise muddy and unfocused film that confuses loudness, bright colors, and gangly flailing for adolescent hijinks. Surprisingly, given the nonsensical script, this well-liked film is remembered most fondly for its supposed quote-ability, i.e. " I could dance with you 'till the cows come home... better still, I could dance with the cows 'till you come home!" or "In order to be the best, you must lose your mind!" or "Welcome to my kingdom, I will bed you all before the night is through!" I don't think any of that shit is funny either, but trust me, dudes who were in high school in the early 1990's love this dumb fucking movie to death. If you are one of those lucky few, feel free to indulge. Everybody else...well, at least it's better than Snowballin'.

Oh, and the scene with Spradling in her underwear was pretty majestic.

Availability: Ski School is available on DVD. And if you really want to go nuts, there's a sequel, too.

Clip: Ski School's trailer

-Ken McIntyre

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