A retro review of the hijink-filled comedy Ski School from 1991 starring Dean Cameron and Stuart Fratkin.
When this movie was released a review for 1991’s Ski School said it was a “brain-cell-destroying debacle”. Another claimed it was a “wretched lesson in how NOT to make films”. And I’ll admit as a kid I watched it for the juvenile humor and frequent nudity, not the plot. And I’ll admit it’s not a great film by any means, but it is mindless fun, and surprisingly over the years, it’s gained a cult following. So, let’s get into it.
The story is your basic cookie-cutter template. Two sections of the resorts ski school, one a preppy by-the-numbers group led by supreme skier and pretty-boy Reid Janssen, the other a hard partying group of misfits known as Section 8 led by the free-spirited Dave Marshak, will battle for control of the mountain. Now it should be no surprise that a ski-themed raunch com from 91, one that delivers partial nudity before the opening credits can even finish, is going to have some dated references and probably more than a few offensive and sexist jokes that wouldn’t fly today. But that’s what all of these movies from the era delivered. It’s misogynistic. A skosh homophobic. And certainly self-gratifying.
But none of it’s fueled by mean spiritedness. So, despite some of its material being dated today, and even a bit dated when released, it’s all for the sake of silly humor and Ski School delivers plenty of it. What’s really fun about Ski School is its quick pacing, its relentless humor, the skiing is actually pretty good, and Dean Cameron and Stuart Fratkin’s amusing charm.
Cameron and Fratkin bring plenty of energy, and tons of their own flavor to these generic character types to make the crude laughs surprisingly effective. Both have a strong comedic timing. They’re able to riff and improv off one another frequently and it results in plenty of dumb amusement. Fratkin as Fitz is able to make the most of a simple sidekick type role, and Cameron is vibrant as a Shakespeare quoting, beer drinking, Dave Marshak who essentially feels like a Van Wilder before Van Wilder.
So, you put these goofy characters up on the mountains and the result is a light hearted atmosphere perfect for turning your brain off too. It’s a basic story, with just enough layering to connect the pranks, the sex, the humor, and the skiing. Nothing overly ambitious but it works. It has a tight 90-minute runtime, and it shoots out of the gate with neon-soaked skiing montages and high energy rock and pop music to let you know exactly what you’re in for.
Now when it comes to raunch-coms from this era there are better ones with more effective and consistent laughs. But Ski School certainly holds its own. Marshak and his crew pull some moronic pranks on Reid and his crew of instructors. Tom Bresnahan as John is sort of the focal character with his coming into his own, while his love triangle serves the film a couple of textbook 90s sex scenes. So, it’s nothing new when it comes to juvenile practical joke comedies.
But the Ski School thrives on the humorous performances from Cameron and Fratkin who always have a trick up their sleeve and show no fear in losing their place on the mountain. Plus, the skiing is actually pretty good so when the movie isn’t flashing skin, or dispensing crude adolescent jokes, Ski School is a surprisingly capable skiing movie with professional skiers, and proficient direction which provides plenty of visually appealing and adrenaline pumping action. All set to a high-spirited soundtrack of nostalgic music.
CAST: Dean Cameron, Stuart Fratkin, Tom Bresnahan, Darlene Vogel, Charlie Spaulding, Mark Thomas Miller DIRECTOR: Damian Lee WRITER: David Mitchell DISTRIBUTOR: Moviestore Entertainment RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes RATING: R (For Sexuality, nudity, language) YEAR: 1990 LANGUAGE: English GENRE: Comedy/Sport
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2023 SilverScreen Analysis