“Hot Dog… The Movie” is that film right at the end of the “Animal House” spectrum and the beginning of the “Police Academy” phenom, where every single work place or setting had its own wacky, madcap plot and array of cartoon characters. Most of the eighties were all about taking what worked and truing to copy its success. In the decade the followed, “Animal House” gave way to a large library of comedies (often teen based) that borrowed from its formula. Some of the titles were pure dreck and some of them were humongous gems. “Hot Dog… The Movie” is the absolute former.
Hoping to prove his skill at freestyle skiing, Idaho farm boy Harkin (Patrick Houser) heads to a competition at California’s Squaw Valley ski resort, offering a ride to hitchhiking musician Sunny (Tracy N. Smith) on the way. Harkin’s main rival in the contest is Rudi (John Patrick Reger), an arrogant Austrian. With guidance from former professional skier Dan (David Naughton), Harkin sets out to win the prize while being pursued by the gorgeous Sylvia (Shannon Tweed), making Sunny jealous.
“Hot Dog… The Movie” takes that a bit, focusing a lot on characters that literally do nothing but have sex, and ski all the while “sticking it to the man.” Peter Markle’s movie is a meandering, droning, tedious mess that lacks any of the inherent chaos that made “Animal House” so much fun. Yes, it’s a comedy centered on a group of skiers, but Peter Markle films every single skiing shot with stern seriousness and like a documentary. You can’t help but feel like the writers had no idea what to do with the gimmick. There’s just no fun to be had, which is sad considering Markle is never shy about including T&A, especially Shannon Tweed’s. The sense of raunchiness and rapid fire comedy is missing in place of an anemic often flat sports comedy that chucks every single joke at us, and lands with a hard thud.
There’s even the signature eighties offensive Asian character who speaks in fractured English, and karate chops his food. Markle at least pads the movie with a ton of very long montages of the characters skiing, and competing in skiing. It attempts to create the illusion of a narrative, while never being able to hide the fact that the movie has little to no story or characterization. Even at eighty minutes, “Hot Dog… The Movie” feels like the script was thirty pages stretched in to a dull “Animal House” facsimile. It’s one of the really awful comedies of the 1980’s that I’d recommend strictly for completists of the decade.
The new edition from Synapse Films features a commentary with writer/producer Mike Marvin. There’s the fifty four minutes “Hot Dog…The Documentary,” which celebrates the release of “Hot Dog…The Movie,” leading with writer/producer Mike Marvin, who shares how much of the picture was based on his actual experiences as a skier and traveler, even using real names for a few of the characters. There is discussion about creative differences, the party atmosphere on set, and the antics from the cast room.
Actors like John Patrick Reger, David Naughton, Frank Koppala, and Tracy Smith appear to discuss their involvement with the production, sharing their casting stories, et al. There is an original T.V. Spot, three original Radio Spots, the Music Video “Top of the Hill,” from Clif Magness, and finally the original theatrical trailer. Finally there’s a Four-page leaflet with an essay titled “Snowballs and Power Bunnies: The Sextastic Slapstick Slalom of Hot Dog… The Movie” written by Mike McPadden author of “Teen Movie Hell.”