*/**** Image B- Sound B Extras C-
starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Horatio Sanz, Vivica A. Fox, Roselyn Sanchez
screenplay by Mort Nathan & William Bigelow
directed by Mort Nathan
by Walter Chaw Scraping bottom, he said adding to the pool of limp entendre that comprises the whole of Mort Nathan's excrescent Boat Trip--scraping bottom describing not only the film, but also--this was possible?--Cuba Gooding Jr.'s career. Booked onto a gay cruise by a vengeful travel agent, jilted Jerry (Gooding Jr.) and his pal Nick (Sanz), an interesting odd couple in that both are career second-fiddles (imagine Garfunkel and Oates and you're close to the mark), try a little too hard to prove their heterosexuality before Gooding Jr. again demonstrates that his career more typically leans towards the mute Stepin Fetchit sidekick of Lightning Jack than it does Rod Tidwell. It's no shocker that Jerry will fall for a fetching steward Gabriella (Roselyn Sanchez) while being unable, Jack Tripper-like, to reveal to her his affection for the weaker sex; complicating matters is a gaggle of Swedish swimsuit models needing a lift, offering a healthy dose of leering misogyny to the already lethal stew of screaming homophobia. If anything, Boat Trip is an extraordinary monument to bad decisions and bad timing--a picture so ill-conceived and, at its heart, so mean-spirited that it's nigh impossible to understand how any person in their right mind could have thought this was a bright idea.
Gooding Jr., with his one expression and his one tic (lifting the left side of his mouth in a remarkable simulacrum of servile hopefulness), is a remarkably poor actor and, somehow, an even worse comedian. With his non-existent timing, the real wonder of the picture is that any one person can be gifted with this degree of cluelessness--has anyone been handed the sort of opportunity that Gooding Jr. has and squandered it with such abandon? The thing about the projects he's chosen over the past few years is that they haven't just turned out badly: they never had any potential in the first place. I challenge anyone to tell me what seemed initially promising about Boat Trip, or Snow Dogs, or The Fighting Temptations, or Radio; indeed, Gooding Jr.'s career post-Oscar has been one long ride into deserved oblivion. The guy, if he's remembered at all, will be remembered as king stupid of the shallow end.
Boat Trip tries to mine humour from blondes acting really stupid and really horny, from fat guys acting really stupid and really horny, and from Vivica Fox playing a cast-iron bitch. Pretending to be gay to lay a woman is Blanche Knott puerile; the irony is that exactly the sort of thing that makes race comedies like Soul Man offensive to the African-American community has now been perpetrated by Gooding Jr. against women and gay men--minorities, both, that are arguably the more marginalized these days. Gooding Jr. should be ashamed, at least he should be if he has the wit to understand what he's done that's shameful. The problem with the picture isn't that Roselyn Sanchez is made to fellate a banana, it's that Gooding Jr. isn't made to do the same--it's not comedy if it's exploitation. Even the revelation that Nick is gay is pulled at the end. The greatest crime of the piece, aside from the fact that it's not the slightest bit funny, is that for all its contortions to be as offensive as possible, Boat Trip is soulless and just fantastically cowardly.
Artisan, recently sold to Lions Gate because they don't know what the hell they're doing and it finally caught up with them, releases Boat Trip on DVD in an "Unrated Version" with 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen video that pretty much looks like a bad digital transfer of a poorly-generated negative. Still, it's head and shoulders above the bulk of Artisan's other releases, most of which are either crammed onto makeshift double-features and/or given appalling pan-and-scan treatments. That said, Boat Trip's colours are bright and the separation of its elements particularly impressive, though edge enhancement is really a worry and distracting in more than one incident. The Dolby 5.1 audio mix is underutilized with a decided lack of atmospherics--that is until one of the worst, most invasive soundtracks in recent memory decides to pipe in with a little of the ol' James Brown.
The cover makes much of the "Unrated" bounty to be unlocked by the picture--having missed the picture in the theatres (it was one of a couple of press screenings snowed-out in the Denver area by the biggest blizzard in years), I have no idea what was added or subtracted (allegedly three extra minutes!), though I can offer that if you're over the age of fifteen and still titillated by the sight of women jogging in slow-motion, you really need to seek therapy. (Or a date.) The menus feature three topless Playmates: sleazy, no question, but hey, why complain? If you've bought or rented this travesty, you're not probably easily offended anyway.
A "Tanning Tips" featurette features those same three Playmates rubbing suntan lotion on themselves, talking like Stepford Wives, and then taking off their tops again while a "Going Overboard" featurette is the basic "making of" bullstuff that tries patience for a while as Gooding Jr. works out in a boxing gym and some toady pretends to interview him about the film. Okay, you're heterosexual, I get it--but methinks the queen doth protest too much. Five deleted scenes inspire the question, "They actually cut something out of this film?" and an outtakes reel shows the cast singing an a cappella version of Blondie's "The Tide is High." It's as painful as you imagine it is. A "Trivia Track" provides a few pop-up trivia anecdotes that don't really often have much to do with the film, thank God, with a few trailers (including the teaser for next summer's The Punisher and the impending Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights) rounding out the whole shooting match. Originally published: December 4, 2003.