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Hot Water (2021)
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by Erik Childress

"Really (Not) Hot And Awfully (Not) Wet"
1 stars

Trying to recreate the moment in time when the creative minds behind the National Lampoon took their anti-establishment humor into the movies is a daunting task. The style of that humor has evolved, not to mention society which funnels every archaic joke through a modern perspective that can now register as problematic. The next thankless task is to just say screw it and try to mirror the kind of softcare Hardbodies genre that would gain play from horny teenagers on late night cable. Even if the message was still the same, behavior got dumber and clothing became more optional. Cinemax does not even run those sort of movies anymore so the only thing left for filmmakers is to either copy a bygone era or satirize it. Larry Rippenkroeger’s Hot Water has all of the ingredients to pick either of those lanes but somehow is asking its horned-up, summer-lovin’ beach body wanting audience to supposed to kinda sorta take it…seriously?

Forgive the confusion but the film begins with our presumed hero, Billy Burnett (Glenn McCuen) working a dead-end job at a golf range, deciding to go out in a blaze of glory by jetskiing in the boss’ swimming pool during a party. Dressed as a dinosaur. Never mind that the guests actually love it and would seem like a great soiree enhancer, Billy is fired much to the chagrin of his dad (Michael Papajohn), an advertising exec trying to sell hot sauce with innuendo and cleavage. We also meet Danny “Dog” Bassett (Max Adler) who owns a company called “Camel Towing” (guess what they do) and, recognizing the skills of Billy on his pool riding contraption convinces Billy’s dad to sponsor his son on the jet skiing circuit if he can get him the tutelage he needs to become a champion.

Cut to the beach where Dog must now convince Jarid Harper (Trevor Donovan, whose IMDB bio is far more interesting than anything he gets to do here) to teach danny discipline on the waves in what feels like the longest exposition dump in cinema history. Props, I suppose to the writers getting in all the backstory in one fell swoop. In that spirit, let’s just mention that there will be a love interest for Danny in fellow jetskiier, Kelly (Nikki Leigh), an object of lust for Dog in Summer (Stormi Henley), a supportive mom played by Vanessa Angel, and a bad guy from the past (Brian Combs) that feels like the missing link to all villainous douchebags in sports and teen movies. Imagine Christopher McDonald’s Shooter McGavin constantly stuck in a perpetual loop of his moments of shame when he realizes he said something stupid only he is too dumb to even remember what got him there in the first place. Again, this is not even played for laughs.

Hot Water is so stuck in a rut of its own intentions that it is impossible to either laugh or care about anything or anyone on screen. Donovan, whose good looks make him look like a Hemsworth stunt double, at least has a modicum of charisma to spare when he’s on screen. Counter that with Adler excuding a Matt Gaetz quality with every line reading, save from the times we are distracted by him parroting bits from better films. We should expect that he would be the one to do the “give anything to find a special love and confide in” speech that ends with an Zmed-like “cans on that bimbo” finale straight out of Bachelor Party. But I sure did not expect the film’s worst character to channel Peter O’Toole’s Alan Swann on a lamer version of his ladies room joke in My Favorite Year. Though as worst characters go, any film student with get an “F” for the construction of the so-called protagonist. When Billy isn’t on screen you forget he’s even in the movie. The film’s funniest bit is when he tries to flag down his now estranged girlfriend jogging on a bridge he is so far away from he may as well be in the sunken place.

Director Larry Rippenkroeger apparently wrote this while laid up after a near-fatal stunt gone wrong as Bruce Willis’ double on Live Free or Die Hard. Channeling his own passion for jet skiing it would have been nice for the audience to share in what makes it worthy of its own placing in the entitled underdog sports genre; if such a label existed before. The race scenes are cut together showing lots of wave jumping but no idea who is winning or how Billy is progressing after advice like “Sometimes you gotta go slow to go fast.” (Though at least there is one decent tip for future skiiers on how to get that initial jump at the starting line.) As a stuntman he shows no interest in staging any of the fighrs well and as he has clearly seen some of the films that may have inspired Hot Water’s outline, we never get the feeling he understands what made even the most threadbare of those plots work. While there’s nothing like a good spray of white goo to express excitement over a woman’s body, Hot Water is not raunchy enough (it has a distinct PG-13 flavor even in its crudest moement) to be considered a slob comedy. And it is hard to take serious a movie with characters named Richard Hurts and Mona Lott when the most distinctly Lampoon-esque name is the director’s own. Next time he should consider that’s a good place to start since the world could use more tributes to stunt people than the well-off from the gene pool who are not funny, interesting or worthy of our attention.

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originally posted: 04/18/21 01:27:27
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