Hot Water is a comedy centered on the hilarious misadventures of an overconfident but extremely talented young jet skier named Billy Burnett (Glenn McCuen Glenn), who seems to have no skills or ambition outside of jet skiing. Frustrated with his son’s lack of prospects, his father, Douglas (Michael Papajohn), pays for a famous coach (Trevor Donovan) to mentor Billy and buys a racing jet ski to give Billy a chance to compete on the professional jet ski tour.
Billy and his promoter, Danny (Max Adler), run into complications along the way as they embark on his training. Of course, there are women and romance on the road to the championship between the victories and setbacks. The plot is entirely incidental. Attractive people do exciting things, and we get to watch.
Full disclosure: if you had asked me about jet skiing as a tournament sport, I would have stared at you blankly and thought about the bottle episode (Cooperative Calligraphy) of Community in which Abed says he might as well put a bucket over his head and sit in the corner. Where’s my bucket? My experience with small watercraft extends only as far as an unintentional experiment in which I learned firsthand that if one does tight circles too slowly on a wave runner, one will find oneself suddenly underwater in Pamlico Sound, wondering WTF just happened.
However, I would have recovered from that moment, put on my Jeopardy-deductive reasoning hat, and arrived at the conclusion that any machine that features velocity as a characteristic is going to be raced, and races quickly evolve into monetized, televised tournaments with sponsorships. Imagine my surprise in doing research for this review that there is an entire sporting culture around Personal Watercraft (PWC).
“…[gives] Billy a chance to compete on the professional jet ski tour.”
Hot Water writer-director Larry Rippenkroeger, unlike this reviewer, knows the PWC sporting world intimately as a four-time world champion jet skier. After his career in competitive jet skiing, Rippenkroeger worked as a stuntman (he was, among other jobs, a double for Bruce Willis), and now, with his writing and directing debut, he brings all of his disparate experiences together. That background shows in the quality of the film. Everything about the jet ski competitions rings true, with a convincing level of detail and amazing racing action footage.
Hot Water takes place beside other sports-centric B-movie screwball comedies such as Ski School 2, Up the Creek, Winter Break, California Dreaming, and Ski Patrol, to name a few. Unlike dramatic movies that happen to feature sports, it is practically a low-budget comedy genre rule that the plot and characters exist only as props to set up screwball gags and wild action shots. Hot Water takes all those tropes to heart, and the result is a very faithful interpretation of a classic college sports comedy.
Despite accurately capturing the vibe, there’s one major difference in this film. The 1980s and 90s movies always relied heavily on raunchy humor, exploitive nudity, and sex. Hot Water flirts with raunchiness, but it’s very mild, as if Rippenkroeger wanted to be sure to capture the PG-13 market. It would have been more fun if they had just gone into R rating territory. That would have made it more authentic to a film like, say, American Pie.
Hot Water doesn’t demand much from a viewer. It’s a familiar good time with some great jet ski action sequences you’ve likely not seen before. It is definitely worth taking for a spin around the pool.
"…a...good time with some great jet ski action sequences..."