Youtube Film Club: Ski Patrol (1990)


As long-term ISCFC readers may be aware, a while ago we did a small series on skiing-based comedies. I thought we’d got them all, but thanks to the wonders of Youtube I found another one, and (aside from films which transcend the ski-comedy genre, like “Better Off Dead” or “Hot Tub Time Machine”) while this won’t be knocking “Out Cold” off its perch as the best of the lot, it’s not bad.

As the opening credits rolled, I fairly accurately predicted the characters, their relationships, and the main bits of the plot. But I’m not very clever, and I’m pretty sure you could have done the same thing. It’s the stereotypical ski movie – there’s a group of wacky skiers (in this case, the “ski patrol” of the title); a group of snooty assholes (the ski instructors, with one hot female to fall in love with our star); a crusty but loveable old resort owner; the evil developer who wants to demolish the place and turn it into a soulless corporate resort; a stupid reason why the owner can’t keep running the place; and an implausible ending where everything’s okay due to the heroes being good at skiing.


Told you it wasn’t that difficult. What “Ski Patrol” has is a strong comic cast, though, so even though they’re used sorta poorly in this movie, you can always remember the good stuff they’ve been in. We’ve got Martin Mull as the evil developer, Paul Feig (now much better known as a director) as the comic relief of the ski patrol, a whole ton of comedy “That Guy” actors, and (by a number of years, his first role) US standup / chat show host George Lopez.


I think this movie ran a bit short on script, or money, or something, and had to use all the footage they had, because there are certain scenes which just never seem to end. TK Carter as Iceman has a few songs to showcase his sub-Jay Pharaoh impression skills, and they show every damn second of those songs. There’s also a ski bum who’s possibly supposed to come off as wacky or a bit rebellious, but just seems to be fairly severely mentally ill (and who causes a lot of the problems the resort has, but isn’t arrested or thrown out or anything like that. Paul Feig’s dancing is showcased at excruciating length. The ski patrol organises a “free for all”, which is just an entirely pointless way to waste three minutes. And so on.


“Ski Patrol” is, though, the answer to two of the most obscure movie trivia questions of all time. They are:

  1. Which movie has the most pratfalls per minute of any movie ever?
  2. Which movie has two different non-white guys doing Rodney Dangerfield impressions, at different times?


I like dogs, so I was pleased to see the main guy (who was so bland I don’t remember his name) has an English bulldog, who farts and belches and saves the day at the end, but also looks distinctly unimpressed when getting dragged through snow as his short legs can’t get over the ruts in the road. Poor fella!


At one point, our dangerously psychotic friend gets hold of what looks like windsurfing kit, with skis attached; and without knowing any of the science, I can tell you why you don’t see people “wind-skiing”, because the speed you’re going downhill at will just act as a force the other way on the sail and slow you down. The whole scene (presumably put in there as product placement for a windsurfing company) is the perfect encapsulation of this movie – desperately trying to be funny, occasionally succeeding but not holding up to a moment’s scrutiny.


While you will definitely be bored (and slightly dismayed by the repeated anti-Chinese racism) there’s plenty of okay stuff in this, and provided you’re with a good group of people, you’ll have a laugh or two. It’s a family movie which the advertising will have you suspecting is a T&A movie – no nudity, no swearing, no excessive drinking or drug use – which is unexpected but okay (if only the bits where these movies would have those interludes were a bit better).


Rating: thumbs in the middle


Out Cold (2001)


If this film had consisted of its first five minutes, followed by 85 minutes of footage of snow falling, or an empty bar, or of the cast asleep, it would have still been 100000x better than “Snowboard Academy”. This started off a philosophical discussion at home about how we’d have felt about this if we’d never seen the other movie, but nothing exists in a vacuum (and it’s a lot of brain power to be spending on snowboarding movies).

It’s an “ice movie” – wacky band of layabouts at a ski resort, which is threatened by closure or catastrophic change by an outside force (bank, rich scumbag or developer). But “Out Cold” shows how you can actually make a pretty decent film from that template, and the first step is hiring a good cast. For comedy fans, the three main faces you’ll recognise are Zach Galifianakis, David Koechner and Thomas Lennon but it’s packed with dependables – Jason London, AJ Cook (from “Criminal Minds”), Willie Garson (“Sex and the City”, “White Collar”), Caroline Dhavernas, and Lee Majors, to name a few.


Rick (London) is still mourning the end of his holiday relationship with Anna (Dhavernas) – the name of the bar in Cancun where they met, “Pedro O’Horny’s”, made me laugh far more than it probably should have done. Jenny (Cook) is one of his co-workers and basically throws herself at him for the first half-hour or so of the movie, but he’s an idiot like all men in these sorts of movies are idiots. He’s best friends with brothers Pigpen and Luke (Galifianakis), and they all work at Bull Mountain, Alaska, where the famous former owner’s son (Garson) is wanting to sell up to developer Mr Majors (Majors). Firstly, they’re happy, as a new owner means new investment for the great snowboard run Rick has planned, but he has a lot of other plans that don’t involve a bunch of drunk slobs. Plus, Majors has two daughters – one is Victoria Silvstedt, and guess who the other is?

With some comedies, the feeling you get is the first time you see the characters is the first time they’ve met, and we’re told about rather than shown their relationships. The core cast of this feels like they’re actually friends, though, and it just makes it easier – no need for lengthy “hey, do you remember how we became friends?” speeches, comedy flows more naturally, everything. When they’re given their new Majors Resorts outfits, their reactions feel natural…anyway, this is a huge mark in the plus column for this movie.

Zach Galifianakis really doesn’t like this (although he’s made worse since he became super-famous – the last Hangover movie, “Operation: Endgame” and “Due Date” all spring to mind), and it’s occasionally easy to see why. It feels like an unreconstructed 80s teen raunch movie at times, with Luke attempting to have sex with the outlet pipe of a hot tub and getting stuck in it all night; their initial reaction to a wheelchair; and the very odd lesbian chat room scene. Plus, there’s a lot of violence substituting for humour, but I think that can work, as long as you don’t do it too often. Plus he gets fellated by a polar bear at one point, so there’s that.


I think its worst crime is occasional laziness in the plotting. No businessman in history has paid millions for new signs and uniforms for the business they were buying, before signing the contract to actually buy it; the central coincidence is staggeringly large, even for a cheapo comedy; quite a lot of people really ought to have been arrested after the end credits; and no attempt is made to put any sort of interesting spin on the central will-they-won’t-they relationship, leaving it to move on rails to its inevitable conclusion.

But, I really enjoyed “Out Cold”, even if it’s a rewrite away from being genuinely great – Lennon is one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters (look at his credits) so they could have asked him to have a run at it, plus Galifianakis could have contributed. There are obvious scenes where they let him or Koechner just go wild, and they’re usually hilarious; plus, Pigpen (Derek Hamilton) appears to be doing a movie-long impression of Crispin Glover, and it’s great. There’s a lot of little things that show care was taken, like Dhavernas wearing a coat from ISO, the organisation from “The Six Million Dollar Man”, and the way that large chunks of the plot are not-so-subtle tributes to “Casablanca” – could Humphrey Bogart have delivered a line as beautifully as Jason London’s “We’ll always have Pedro O’Horny’s”?


Add on a heck of a good soundtrack and a number of fun outtakes and you’ve got a completely decent movie. The racing scenes are shot well too, by no means a given in this sort of movie, and I’d be surprised if you don’t enjoy this. Its low rating on places like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes is a complete joke, it’s way funnier than those reviews would have you believe. You don’t even need to be on some pointless quest to watch every winter-sport comedy movie ever made to enjoy it!

Rating: thumbs up