Hot Water (Photo: Hot Water Films)

★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Larry Rippenkroeger
STARS Trevor Donovan, Nikki Leigh

“Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son,” states Dean Wormer (played by John Vernon) in the 1978 comedy classic National Lampoon’s Animal House. Maybe not, but when an actor possesses the right chops, it’s a fine way to grace many a motion picture.

Of course, it takes a certain je ne sais quoi to make a vulgarian lovable, but it can be done — just check out, for example, Rodney Dangerfield in 1980’s Caddyshack, Cheech and Chong in 1978’s Up in Smoke or John Belushi in the aforementioned Animal House. Conversely, there’s Chris Penn’s party animal in 1984’s The Wild Life; reviewing it just last week when it hit Blu-ray (see review here), I wrote that this character was “insufferable from first frame to last.” (I also find Zach Galifianakis’ clod in The Hangover an endurance test but readily concede I’m in the minority on that one.) There have been far too many tiresome movie characters like the one essayed by Penn, and the latest example can be found in the comedy Hot Water. That would be Danny “Dog” Bassett (Max Adler), the chubby, diarrhea-prone horndog who simply wants to get laid. This being a male wish-fulfillment film, one guess who lands a beautiful girlfriend before it’s all over.

The character of Dog is but one of the lame ingredients in the resolutely unimaginative Hot Water. Yet another underdog tale set in the sports world, this one finds young and brash newcomer Billy Burnett (Glenn McCuen) hoping to win a major jet ski competition. From here, trot out the usual suspects: the wise mentor/coach (a nice turn by Trevor Donovan); the ruthless champion (Brian Combs) who has no problem with cheating; the supportive love interest (Nikki Leigh) who — oh, no! — mistakenly believes Billy is unfaithful; the uncomprehending member of the older generation (Michael Papajohn as Billy’s dad); and so on. There’s nothing wrong with Larry Rippenkroeger’s direction, but his script is stridently pedestrian.

That is, until the final act. Rippenkroeger is a former professional jet skier (as well as Bruce Willis’ personal stunt double for over a decade), and he stages the championship race in a robust and exciting manner. What’s more, while there’s never any doubt how the competition will end, there are a couple of surprising developments along the way. Ultimately, though, this late-inning surge isn’t enough to prevent Hot Water from registering as a lukewarm endeavor.

(Hot Water is available on Blu-ray and DVD and on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, and other streaming platforms.)

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