A chirpy, tween-skewing, snowboarding-themed romantic comedy, “Chalet Girl” slaloms exuberantly down a predictable path, kicking up regular flurries of fun along the way. Although the script is a bit slushy, efficient helming by Phil Traill, toothsome lead turns from Felicity Jones and Ed Westwick, and powder-dry comic support all deserve solid marks. Expected to open saturation-wide with a muscular marketing push on March 16 in Blighty, this U.K.-Austria-Germany co-production should make a good but not record-breaking run before finding its ancillary niche as prime slumber-party entertainment. Westwick’s presence should improve prospects offshore.
Obeying the rule of thumb that a sympathetic protagonist should always have at least one dead parent, Tom Williams’ script makes it clear from the start that 19-year-old heroine Kim Matthews (feisty up-and-comer Jones) lost her mother a couple of years ago in a car accident. Just in case auds miss the point, flashbacks to and mentions of the fatal event recur at regular intervals.
The accident not only left Kim to take care of her sweet but hopelessly impractical dad (comedian Bill Bailey, reliably funny), but also blighted what was shaping up to be a promising pro-am skateboarding career for Kim. Now broke and sick of her job as a fast-food monkey, Kim applies for work at a tony catering company that usually employs posh girls — a nice foretaste of the class- and culture-clash comedy to come.
Kim is assigned what seems like a dream job: working for a whole season as a chalet girl — a cook, cleaner and all-around factotum — at the mountaintop vacation manse of the jetsetting Madsen family in the Austrian Alps. Brood includes British (and therefore wry) banking patriarch Richard (Bill Nighy); his snooty American wife, Caroline (Brooke Shields); their hunky son, Jonny (Ed Westwick, “Gossip Girl”); and his snobby g.f., Chloe (Sophia Bush).
Fellow chalet girl Georgie (Tamsin Egerton, increasingly impressive as a comedian), another posh girl, at first sneers at Kim’s cluelessness in the face of rich folk and their ways, but eventually proves to be a good egg. When not trading barbs with Georgie or looking after the family, whose visits to the chalet are infrequent, Kim teaches herself how to snowboard. Spotting her innate athletic talent, a goofy Finn, Mikki (German-born Ken Duken, big in Central Europe), offers to coach her so she can enter a local snowboarding competition with a hefty cash prize attached.
But of course, the biggest prize is Jonny’s heart, as depicted in many giddily edited montages of him and Kim messing around on the slopes, set to the likes of better-than-average, demographic-friendly pop. Pic takes advantage of the thick clothing (including face coverings) required for winter sports to feature an assortment of stunt players showing off fancy moves. Femme snowboarding ace Tara Dakides plays herself in cameo role that may attract fans of the sport, especially guys dragged along by their dates.
Although many of the script’s twists and turns are a little too boilerplate, there are enough droll zingers to keep the material bouncing along. The story packs in an ample number of subplots, including secondary romances for Georgie, Mikki and even Bill back in England, and yet the whole thing moves forward as relentlessly as, well, a downhill skier. Helmer Traill’s sitcom background (including “Kath and Kim” and “10 Things I Hate About You”) shows through in the quickfire switchbacks; his work here feels somewhat anonymous, but this modest, inoffensive item reps a considerable improvement over his debut, “All About Steve.”