I’ve lived in Colorado for 20 years now but I just haven’t gotten into the whole skiing thing. It’s a big deal here but I just don’t get the appeal. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in Illinois, where the biggest hills are parking lot speed bumps. Or it could be that, as I see it, there are two basic steps to skiing: 1. Strap on skis 2. Hope I don’t die! Plenty of people love it, though. In 1984, an Olympic year, Hollywood decided to try and get skiing fans into movie theaters with a skiing-themed sex comedy – Hot Dog…The Movie.
Our story follows a young skier from Idaho named Harkin Banks (Patrick Houser). He is making his way to a skiing competition at Squaw Valley in California. Along the way, he picks up a pretty young hitchhiker named Sunny (Tracy Smith), who has little interest in skiing but plenty of interest in Harkin. Upon arrival at the resort, they check into a hotel where the desk clerk checks them in wearing a towel, and nothing else. Oh, did I mention that the towel is on her head? They are given the only room left, a honeymoon suite of sorts complete with water-bed and heart-shaped jacuzzi. Gradually, the two do hook up.
Harkin and Sunny soon start to explore the skiing community, including a local bar holding a wet T-shirt contest…in the dead of winter. Eventually Harkin ends up meeting a rag tag group of skiers led by Dan O’Callahan (David Naughton), a more experienced skier who is getting a little too old for the circuit. As Harkin starts to show his skill, he quickly earns an enemy in the form of Austrian champion Rudi Garmisch (John Patrick Reger). He also catches the interest of the hottest babe in the competition, Sylvia (Shannon Tweed…who had just finished her reign as Playmate of the Year). She invites Harkin to a big party at her place and, naturally, the two have a little fun. First in the bedroom, then in the hot tub…which is where Sunny catches them.
Things are now rocky between Harkin and Sunny but he must focus on the competition. Problem is, though he clearly outshines Rudi in every event, the judges give him lower scores than he deserves. With the competition clearly fixed, O’Callahan challenges Rudi to a “Chinese Downhill” where hundreds of skiers zoom to the bottom of the mountain in a knock-down drag-out no rules race.
The filmmakers seem to have two priorities with Hot Dog…The Movie: showing some cool skiing footage and showing attractive women in various states of undress. Like most of these sort of films, the filmmakers go out of their way to work in the nudity. The whole wet T-shirt contest thing is especially stupid. Just the fact that they have several women just wearing T-shirts in a mountain town bar is a stretch. It’s probably freakin’ five below outside! Layers people…layers! Of course, the filmmakers gave the future Mrs. Gene Simmons (Tweed) the opportunity to shed her pesky clothes in a love scene that is pretty lengthy and, honestly, a bit steamier than what you run across in most 80’s sex comedies.
All this is to be expected. What was unexpected was the skiing sequences. As I said before, I have pretty much no interest in skiing, but these ski sequences are both entertaining and intriguing. We see several different events depicted. There is the moguls, where skiers bounce and weave their way around a hillside covered in little snow bumps. We also get the freestyle jumps, which are pretty awesome. There was also an event I’d never seen or heard of before which is essentially a ski ballet. The competitors do various dance/gymnastics style moves as they gracefully slide down the mountain. I’ve gotta say, I was impressed! Not only do we see a great deal of skill displayed in all these events, but they are photographed in creative and dramatic fashion.
Carrying the whole thing through is a likeable cast. David Naughton works well as the leader of a band of misfits (think Tim Matheson in Animal House). John Patrick Reger, Tracy Smith, and Shannon Tweed are all solid as the standard bad guy, nice girl, and hot girl. The weakest element of the cast is actually leading man Patrick Houser, but he’s really not given much to work with for the character of Harkin. The guy pretty much just skis and strums his guitar.
While Hot Dog…The Movie certainly has the tropes of other 80’s sex comedies, I would say it is a cut above most of them. It’s not terribly funny, but it is entertaining – primarily due to the great skiing scenes. You still ain’t gettin’ me on those things, though!