Rival ski instructors at a prestigious mountain school compete to save their jobs. The infamous "Section Eight", a popular group of skiing partiers are up against some rich stiffs whose only thought is beating their arch rivals in the annual spring pageant.
"These women, man, they just don't understand you know? Sometimes I just want to cuddle"
As a product of the 80s I have to ask, was skiing really that big a deal? I feel like in addition to restaurants, deconstructed jackets, CDs, and cocaine, the 80s were dominated by skiing. Was it though? Or is it because of a few movies that this stigma has permeated? Late to the cable TV game, my first experience with these movies was either Roger Moore's James Bond film 'A View To A Kill' or a Warren Miller blooper tape that my uncle would bring over during the holidays. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I even discovered 'Ski School 2' late at night on Cinemax. So as I settled into watching 'Ski School' for the first time, I was a bit taken aback when I realized that the South Park episode titled "Asspen" was virtually a blow for blow scene for scene parody of this movie! I thought they were just making fun of the genre and Aspen, Colorado culture - I didn't know it was actually an entire movie they condensed down to 24 minutes!
Life on mountains in the late 80s must have been pretty incredible. No one spends their days at work and everyone stays up all night partying after hitting the slopes without having to pay lift fees. But things aren't all wine and snow-frosted roses for one particular mountain. Rival ski schools are setting up for their annual spring skiing competitions feating the best skiers around. Only these really aren't "schools" in the literal sense, they're more like clubs. For "Section 8" leader Dave Marshak (Dean Cameron) winning the competition is about keeping his club and staying on the mountain so he can party and live life the way he wants. For Reid Janssens (Mark Thomas Miller), things are a lot more sinisterly motivated.
If Reid wins the competition, Marshak is kicked off the mountain and loses his club and the property it sits on. If that happens Reid and his father get everything and stand to make millions of dollars turning the property into condos. Thankfully for Marshak it just so happens that his latest recruit John Roland (Tom Bresnahan) happens to be one of the best skiers on the mountain and is just waiting for the chance to show his stuff. It's going to take a lot of pranks, a lot of drinking, and a lot of partying if they're going to win the competition. They're also going to need a montage!
1990 doesn't feel like 25 years ago - but it is. In that time, 'Ski School' really hasn't aged well. From what I gather, the "Ski Movie" genre had pretty much run the well dry by the time this film was released. That isn't to say this movie isn't entertaining, it often made me chuckle at the one liners, but a lot of the movie feels so completely dated. This movie looks its age which makes me feel old because I used to sneak a lot of these kinds of movies past my parents at the rental store knowing they were full of foul language, scantly clad women, and badly behaving guys who spent their time partying. Granted I was around eight or ten years old so I should be forgiven for not knowing any better, but still, I don't need the reminder that I've gotten older.
'Ski School' is pretty much a showcase film. Like skateboarding movies, or the recently released 'Tracers' and parkour - the entire point of the movie is to show off athletic ability, story is completely secondary. 'Ski School' is no exception to this rule. What little plot and story development we get comes not from any of the characters but from an omnipotent announcer speaking through a megaphone as men with colorful uniforms zip down the slops performing any number of crazy flips and stunts. When the announcer stops talking, it's back to comedic shenanigans that just randomly happen. Thankfully Dean Cameron is really good at deadpan comedy. Most of the jokes are in the form of well-timed one liners and most of them are pretty funny. Granted there may not be much of a story but the jokes land.
That leads me to another point of how dated 'Ski School' is - the humor. Entire pranks and elaborate jokes are dedicated to making Reid and his skiers look like a band of yuppie homosexuals. While it's actually kind of funny to see their masculinity attacked - it's also rather amazing to see how humor has evolved over the years. 25 years ago the "gay joke" was a solid standby to elicit a good laugh from the audience. Nowadays, something like that had better be handled extremely carefully or risk being viewed as culturally insensitive. For the most part this movie sticks to well-timed one liners, but there is a solid ten minutes of the movie that could almost be put in a time capsule for how dated it feels.
As a whole, the movie is only so so. I got a good laugh here and there, so I guess it still works, but so much of the movie's plot is paper thin it's hard to imagine it getting made today. If you spent your time living the 80s high life this one might be worth a revisit. I was just so removed from that scene growing up, much of the movie doesn't hit for me. It's still kinda funny, but it's not an amazing piece of comedic movie making that stands the test of time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Ski School' makes the jump to Blu-ray thanks to Olive Films pressed on a BD25 disc. Housed in a standard case, the disc opens to the main menu of a static image.
For a 25 year old catalogue release, 'Ski School' actually looks pretty great on Blu-ray. Helping the image is the fact that it's loaded with late 80s early 90s colors. This is a very bright movie, from the clothing to the mountainous scenery allowing for fairly solid color replication. Since there is rarely an overly dark moment in the movie, black levels look fairly strong. There is some slight crush here and there and the image can look like contrast was tweaked a bit, but otherwise everything looks very strong. Film grain has largely been retained allowing for some strong detail levels throughout. All in all a solid 1.85:1 1080p transfer.
Sporting a vibrant DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, 'Ski-School' gets a pretty nice kick in the audio department. All around all elements come through with great clarity. Dialogue, sound effects, and music have plenty of room to occupy without overlapping each other. Imaging is pretty good, could be better, especially during the big ski competition scenes the track can feel a little flat, like much of it was dubbed in later during post. Even then, most of the sound effects are drowned out by the offscreen announcer so there isn't much to hear anyway. Levels are just fine keeping things closer to the midranges without much spike. It's a serviceable track - just not that impressive in the end.
Trailer: (HD 1:47) It tries to make the film look like a wild and crazy time with skiing, but it just feels like a quintessential 80s movie trailer.
I guess it could be said I didn't have much in the way of expectations going into this viewing of 'Ski School.' In the end I would say that it was an entertaining movie at times, but most of the gags get repetitive after awhile. But then again, this movie was never really my thing. Fans should be pleased with the A/V quality of this Blu-ray release - overall things look great and sound just fine on Blu-ray. If you've never seen it and are curious I'd say it's worth a rent - if only so you can say you've actually seen 'Ski School.'