Ski School (Review)
Written by David Mitchell
Directed by Damian Lee
The second film in the Dean Cameron Triple Feature Midnites for Maniacs show was Ski School (after Summer School), one of two flicks I had no experience with before the night began. This was Jesse Hawthorne Ficks’ favorite movie growing up, and the showing was his birthday bash. I was only vaguely aware of the film going in, thinking it was just another Police Academy style film that they must not have had a copy of at the video store I used growing up.
The film apes part of Summer School‘s character dynamic, though instead of Dean Cameron’s character having Dave Frazier(Gary Riley) to work off of, Cameron is paired up with Stuart Fratkin as his partner in crime. Fratkin and Cameron would again be paired in the tv series They Came From Outer Space, though Fratkin was noticeably not in Ski School 2, a movie that seemingly could only afford Dean Cameron.
Ski School is a classic snobs vs slobs scenario mixed into the Academy format the Police Academy movies help popularized while also showcasing some great 90s extreme sports events. In addition to the skiing, thanks to it being the 90s, ever character is constantly wearing neon, especially neon tracksuits and ski outfits. They even work it into the party scenes by using a blacklight to make the partygoers all glow.
Basically, Dave Marshak (Dean Cameron) and his squad of party hounds run the disrespectful part of the ski school located in Building 8 (painted sideways like infinity.) They’re opposed by Reid Janssens (Mark Thomas Miller), a classic movie jerkass who demands perfection and hates the slobs, to the point where he is conspiring with the ski school’s owners to sell the place, at which point he’ll get a promotion. Not exactly the best evil plan, but it is evil and it is a plan that interferes with their partying lifestyle, so Marshak and his friends must save the day. Marshak is joined by his best bud Fitz Fitzgerald (Stuart Fratkin) and fellow party man Ed Young (Patrick Labyorteaux, who was also in Summer School), as well as hot new recruit John Roland (Tom Breznahan), who is an awesome skier but not from the rich, established skier areas, thus earning Janssens’ ire and getting shipped of to section 8.
Yes, the villain is forcing all the “problem” students to live together in an isolated area with a problematic name before he deals with them permanently, and Jesse Hawthorne Ficks remarked the Holocaust parallels on during the introduction before the film that made Dean Cameron immediately joke about how he was getting off the stage!
Marshak’s solution to every problem is to party and drink, and the best way to party and drink is to interrupt the rich snobs’ parties and turn them into slob paradise. It’s weird how the villains deride the party slob atmosphere when they are out getting drunk almost as much, except they do it in rich people acceptable ways where everyone is dressed up and drinking wine. It’s all about getting drunk and partying the right way, don’t you know? In typical Animal House fashion, the heroes are kicked out of the ski school, but return to cause chaos, getting put back into the contest by crowd enthusiasm (thanks to bribing them all with beer!) and having a bet to control the ski school rest on the result of the skiing contest. I always find these scenarios where some sort of ridiculous contest solves an open culture war in a large institution funny, at least as long as I don’t look at how things in America actually work too closely, which reveals far too many similarities than we should be comfortable with.
Plot beats happen just as you expect they would in these films, the difference, as always, is the journey to reach the destination. Marshak is charming, but his prank and party philosophy runs a bit too much on the no responsibility side. Fratkin is a great sidekick and his infatuation with Janssens’ sort of girlfriend Paulette (Charlie Spradling) is cute, with her responding precisely because Janssen is far too focused on himself to even pay attention to his girl’s life. Skiing hero John Roland has a casual relationship with Lori (Darlene Vogel), though neither really want it to be casual, but they don’t talk about it right away because Roland also needed a sex scene with Playboy model Ava Fabian, who plays the rich ski enthusiast Victoria.
The 90s are strong in this film. The colors, the parties, the sports, the eventual dismissal of casual sex. The film is so 90s I’m surprised Buzzfeed hasn’t come up with a “Which Ski School Character Are You?” quiz, but that would require the writers at Buzzfeed to do something movie related that isn’t Harry Potter or Disney. And that ain’t going to happen. A bright spot is the very end, not because the heroes win (is that really a spoiler???), but because Marshak kisses the sulking Janssen, basically showing all is forgiven. They specifically avoid having the villains humiliated and goes for the peaceful ending, which is a great touch, even if it isn’t very 90s. And that’s okay.
Director Damian Lee has a cool pedigree in cult cinema world, from the Jesse Ventura is a space cop ridiculousness that is Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe to Michael Dudikoff and Billy Dee Williams Moving Target and the Don “The Dragon” Wilson/Rowdy Roddy Piper Die Hard in a Dam movie Terminal Rush. Damian Lee’s often partner David Mitchell penned the script and would take over scripting and directing for Ski School 2.
Rated 6/10 (lion, learner, learner, hope that’s chocolate, army man, there is actual skiing in this movie)
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