Writer/director Larry Rippenkroeger's standard-issue comedy Hot Water brought back the nostalgia for those childhood days when I would hunker down in my neighborhood multiplex and watch some lowbrow, goofy as hell comedy that didn't actually accomplish much but hit enough of the right comedy notes that I didn't mind forking over my five bucks.
Yeah. Yeah. I'm old enough that I remember when I could catch a matinee for five bucks.
Hot Water, available now via most of your usual streaming platforms, is your typical low-budget comedy with a sunny disposition and a whole lot of fun in mind. The story centers around Billy Burnett (Glenn McCuen), a misguided and misdirected 21-year-old with a passion for jetskiing and a complete inability to hold anything resembling an actual job. With a marketing guru father, Douglas (Michael Papajohn), desperate to figure out what to do with him, Billy ends up under the mentoring of champ jetskiier Jarid Harper (Trevor Donovan) and, of course, all sorts of hijinks ensue on the way to life lessons and redemption.
If you don't think of an early Adam Sandler flick while watching Hot Water, you're not paying attention.
It's hard to imagine there's a Happy Madison universe waiting to be birthed out of Hot Water, though this is still a strangely engaging film with a pretty good awareness of what it is and what it's trying to be. The ensemble cast is charming enough to make this light comedy for the most part land where it's supposed to and the film's naughtier bits are mostly of the "wink wink" variety. Both McCuen and Donovan offer up charismatic, likable performances and it's arguable by film's end that the story's arc is as much about Donovan's Jarid Harper as it is good ole' Billy Burnett.
A not so secret ingredient in the film's success, however, is Max Adler as "Dog," the owner of locally owned Camel Towing (admit it, you laughed) and the cog that puts into motion Billy's arrival on the jet ski circuit. More than anyone, Adler nails the film's rhythm and vibes and has a comic timing that is impeccable. Adler, a SAG Award-nominee for his ensemble work on television's Glee, lights up the screen every time he's on it (which is, quite fortunately, often).
This is not to say the rest of the ensemble is weak. Not at all. Adler just has a knack for stretching a comic moment for its every laugh. Vanessa Angel, likely the film's most visible name, is also memorable as Nancy.
Phil Parmet's lensing is vibrant and natural throughout while Vaclav Zacek's original music fits the film's light rhythm quite nicely. A look through the credits for Hot Water is an easy indicator that this film is definitely a family project with a few Rippenkroeger's sprinkled throughout this straightforward yet for the most part entertaining comedy.
While Hot Water won't likely change your life, it's an engaging enough comedy to keep you invested for a couple hours and a solid directing debut for veteran stuntman Rippenkroeger. You can catch the film for yourself via most streaming channels including Prime Video.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic