Cabin Boy (1994)

"Nothing so liberates the heart as when a fool awakens from his folly."
- uncredited quote on title card

David Letterman and Conan O'Brien TV sidekick Andy Ritcher starring in a
comedy produced by Tim Burton?  What!?!?

Believe it or not, both appear in the goofy Chris Elliott vehicle CABIN
BOY.  Elliott, of course, is an old Letterman alumni who went on "bigger
things," including his show "Get a Life" on Fox. Now, Bob Elliott's boy
has gone and got his own movie. And, believe or it not, it's actually
kinda funny.

Elliott stars as Nathanial, the prim but quite obnoxious student of a
fine finishing school. On graduation day, he's supposed to catch a
cruise ship to Hawaii where he'll work for his rich father (guess who
plays him? :)  But, true to slapstick convention, young Nathan goes to
the wrong seaport and boards the wrong boat.

He hops onto a fetid fishing boat (called The Filthy Whore) and joins
its rag-tag, drunken crew of five thinking that he's booked on a "theme
cruise." Only when he's several miles out to sea does our
not-very-intrepid hero learn the bitter truth.

And, since he's a moron, he manages to steer the boat straight into
"Hell's Bucket"-- an uncharted region populated by all manner of
supernatural creatures...

CABIN BOY is a strange piece of work. With a supporting cast that
includes a giant, a six-armed siren, and a half-man/half-shark, the film
feels like a lower budget version of Terry Jones' ERIK THE VIKING.  That
film, if you recall, successfully combined droll comedy with strong

In CABIN BOY, both the comedy and fantasy are substantially subdued, but
no less enjoyable. What other film this year is likely to feature giant
flying cupcakes that spit tobacco?  Or gusting winds that are blown by
clouds with human faces?

This would be great kid's stuff, if not for the language.

The humor-- like the film itself-- is spotty in spots. The jokes vary in
quality, but the cast gets off some good one-liners. Make a few
provisions for the slower moments, mix in the fantasy, and you get one
very goofy movie.

As expected, Chris Elliott plays Chris Elliott. If you enjoy his grating
speech and effeminate mannerisms, then he'll amuse. His shipmates are a
motley crew of familiar character actors. They have a whale of a time
overacting and shouting nonsense like "Holy Christ in a dump truck."
Newcomer Melora Walters is a waste as Elliott's "love interest," but she
gets good lines like "I'm always flattered when a psychotic gets smitten
on me."

And, any casting deficiencies are overcome by the periodic appearances
of more-famous faces. Blink and you'll miss Ricki Lake, Russ Tamblyn, or
Bob Elliott.

Letterman shows up early-- you can't miss him.  (Rated "PG-13"/98 min.)

BOTTOM LINE:  Strict sitcom fare with an unexpectedly strong fantasy
element. The result is a lively and disposable comedy that's worth a
look, if nothing else, for David Letterman's (first?) film appearance.

Grade: B-

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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