Retrospeculative #4

Hot To Trot

Levi Eleven
3 min read
Retrospeculative #4
"When I talk, you're going to laugh yourself hoarse."
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I saw this movie in the theater about 20 years ago and not a single time since then! I will now, sans journalistic integrity and with no research, use the powerful ability I call "memory" to review it.

In the ‘80s the front line of the class war was slobs-versus-snobs comedies. We all know the format. If you wear a Hawaiian shirt and burp, you clearly have a heart of gold and a girlfriend who is too hot for you. If you are shaven or successful you are an asshole. In this version, Bobcat Goldthwait plays a loser with a funny voice. Sounds like a stretch, but stick with me. He inherits a horse from some dead relative. That is probably enough to get you laughing right there, but wait, hold the phone … THE HORSE TALKS! Sold.

I was 11 when I saw the preview for
Hot to Trot. I was stoked, even though stoked was not yet a common term. That’s how stoked I was: The context traveled through time to add more stokage to my slang. What 11-year-old wouldn’t be excited at this premise? It’s like Mr.Ed, but in color. Add the possibility of swear words, nudity and poop jokes—it practically sells itself! I went to the theater fully prepared to have my mind blown. I could say I saw it first. "I got in on the ground floor," I would brag when the sequels came out, impressing everyone with how I had my finger on the pulse of this cultural phenomenon. But I never had the heart to rewatch it on video or endless cable Sunday afternoons. What went wrong? I can sum it up in two words: no nudity. Clothed comedies kind of defeat the entire point of the ‘80s, don’t they? Even in cable replays the nudity is at least implied. This is an hour and a half boobless wasteland. Poop jokes, yes, but nothing groundbreaking.

The talking horse is voiced by John Candy, who actually gets billed below the horse. I don’t even think he read a script. I’m guessing some producer got him drunk one day and secretly turned on a tape recorder. Afterwards he got someone to write a movie around it. It turns out the horse is a stock market wizard. He gives tips to Bobcat, which makes them money and leads to Bobcat getting hired by an investment firm. The investment firm is run by Dabney Colemen. He’s rich, so you know he’s evil.

Here’s how I imagine the inner dialogue of Dabney Coleman when he heard the pitch: "Third billing to Bobcat Goldthwait and a horse? No way some horse is going to upstage me! I’ll look even horsier and make a fool of him!" At which point I assume he bought the racist-caricature set of buck teeth Mickey Rooney wore in
Breakfast at Tiffany’s . Seriously: He just plays the character he did in 9 to 5 but with prosthetic teeth.

The middle part of the movie may as well have been a montage, because it’s all a blur. Imagine the wacky horse jokes. Imagine the rich guy getting frustrated. Let’s just agree that it’s Billy Madison but with a horse in place of Adam Sandler, and swap school for the stock market. Close enough. But what is slobs-versus-snobs without an improbable contest? Hey, they already paid for the horse, why not race him? If the horse wins it’s a happy ending where the villain is humiliated and ruined, and well … do we really need to wonder about what happens here?

Retrospeculative #4

On set.

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