Boat Trip (2002) (part 1 of 5)
There’s a term that’s always irritated me in journalism, and that is the clichéd phrase “meteoric rise”. The reason it bugs me is that a piece of celestial debris only becomes a meteor after breaching our atmosphere and following a path of descent. A meteor never rises.
But the path of Cuba Gooding’s career could certainly be described as “meteoric”, given that in the time since his Academy Award, he’s been in a career freefall—and in the case of Boat Trip, he even replicates the meteor’s flameout and violent impact.
This film defies reason. It is antagonistic towards good taste. You may often see reviewers wonder how a bad script managed to make it into production given its blatant flaws, but this movie typifies that sentiment like no other. Once you see what the performers are reduced to doing, as well as uttering, you’ll marvel that anyone actually signed on to this debacle.
First, some brief backstory. Boat Trip was written and directed by Mort Nathan, a veteran writer from the much-loved 1980s series The Golden Girls. Thus, he brings a sophomoric sense of humor to the proceedings, as one might expect, but he does something curious; he reverts back to the mentality of sitcoms of the ‘70s. So while the rest of us were entering a new millennium that promised better treatment of homosexuality in contemporary entertainment, Nathan was serving up sexism and homophobia on par with old episodes of Three’s Company. Hearken back to Mr. Furley’s intolerance and Jack Tripper pretending to troll for tail at the Regal Beagle, and you’ll know exactly what Boat Trip has in store for us.
The opening shot is a close-up on Jerry (Cuba Gooding) as he makes a heartfelt marriage proposal. But then we see he is in fact proposing to his bulldog, Rocko. Practicing, actually, but this is the first of many so-called gags involving the dog. I say “so-called”, because every film involving a dog as comic relief normally has the animal actually doing things that are humorous. Here, the filmmakers believe simply cutting to a shot of a bulldog is enough to garner a chuckle.
You also get a sense of the attention to detail on the set, as Gooding is allowed to perform this scene with obvious pit stains.
Jerry feeds the dog, and next, we hear music kick in. This is a banner moment in cinematic history, as this movie becomes the 10,000th feature film to use James Brown’s “I Feel Good” on the soundtrack. As Jerry goes out for a walk, taking Rocko to see the opening credits, we get our first indication of something odd about this character. Jerry will be pretending to be a gay man later on (spoiler alert!), but even when he’s playing his straight character, he dresses the part of a stylish, effeminate man. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
After dancing around his apartment for a spell, Jerry’s in the car with his fiancée Felicia (Vivica A. Fox), and he keeps peppering her with promises of a surprise, while she’s too busy looking at herself in the mirror to listen. Next, we cut to a hot air balloon, and I’m sure you’re already getting a sense of where this is going, but the truth is, it’ll be even worse than what you’re anticipating.
That Jerry is about to get blasted out of the saddle is a foregone conclusion. However, clever man that he is, he’s rented a balloon (without an operator) even though he gets motion sickness. As he’s about to spit out his well-rehearsed proposal, he manages to spit out something else entirely. Yes, not even three minutes in and we’re treated to a vomit gag.
Felicia not only spurns Jerry’s proposal, but lets him know she’s leaving him for the guy who details her car. We don’t learn if this is a step up or a step down for her, because we’ll never actually learn what Jerry does for a living.
He comes home to stare at pictures of Felicia on his computer’s screensaver, then a title card declares it’s six months later, and we fade in to see he’s still at the computer, mooning over her. Imagine how bad off he’d be if she wasn’t a bitch who tossed him out like yesterday’s garbage.
He soon gets a call from his friend Nick (Horatio Sanz), who wants to bring Jerry out to “saddle up the ol’ baloney pony and storm the foxholes!” See, Nick is something of an alpha male with a voracious sexual appetite. Well, to be more accurate, he looks like the “before” picture in your average weight loss commercial with a severe case of arrested frat boy infantilism. But please, just buy into how this movie wants you to believe he’s a typical party dude. It’ll be much easier that way.
They hang up, and we’re shown that Nick is a maintenance man at a spa. As he’s on his way to unclog a toilet, a hot woman is face down on a table talking to him, thinking he’s the masseuse. Naturally, he’s incapable of walking away, and instead begins giving her a violent massage, all because the woman can only speak in double-entendres.
See, she was talking about the massage, but to Nick it sounded sexual! Ha-ha! (Ugh.) The scene crests when Horatio takes out his plunger to use on the woman.
That night, we see that after half a year of moping, it took only one obnoxious call to get Jerry out of the house and looking quite bubbly. At a nightclub, they meet a nerdy friend who has an older skank on his arm. He tells the guys she’s a Hooters bartender, though it appears more likely that her daughter is the one actually employed there. He informs Nick he met her on a cruise, and describes how cruise ships are crawling with women. And thus, the inception has been planted.
Next day, the guys are in Nick’s car, but as they wait for a parking spot, another car swoops in. And now comes the height of cinematic excellence as Horatio Sanz gets into a swearing fight with Mr. Disaster on Two Legs himself, comedian Artie Lange.
Lange is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to comedic actors, and accordingly, the dialogue between the duo is simply crackling:
Lange: Fuck You!
Nick: Hey, fuck you right back, buddy! Bite me!
Lange: Blow me!
Nick: Kiss my ass!
Lange: Fuck your mother!
I went back and double checked the credits, and to the best of my knowledge, the words “Based on a play by William Shakespeare” do not appear there.
Our two friends are on their way to a travel agency, and here I need to pause to explain. You see, back before everyone had access to the inter-tubes via their Commodore computers, people had to go to these things called “offices” in order to purchase vacation plans. It was a lavish affair, where you’d dress up and drive to a location to leaf through crusty catalogs and decades-old pamphlets. Then, people in these offices used their computers to book reservations on airplanes and cruises for you, with only a nominal surcharge in the 40 to 45% range. Very different from the drudgery of today, where you can do all the work yourself, in moments, at a fraction of the price, all while you wait for the coffee to finish brewing.
Jerry and Nick take a seat, while a meek agent assists them with booking their trip. Then an uncredited Will Ferrell stops by—here, playing the office manager—to let the agent know his mother just passed away. The agent runs off in tears, and who do you suppose sits down in his place?
Yes, Artie Lange, the guy they shared a road rage moment with earlier, is also a travel agent. The curbside argument continues, before Will Ferrell steps in to calm everyone down. He then excuses Lange so he can finish their booking.
As Jerry and Nick leave with their tickets, Ferrell calls Lange over and explains how he “took care of those guys”. It turns out Lange and Ferrell are actually gay lovers, and Ferrell changed the booking as an act of revenge. And after seeing Will Ferrell and Artie Lange getting intimate, I’ll just assume you need a moment to go to the sink and cough up your last meal like Cuba Gooding in a hot air balloon.