Sunday, September 15, 2019
90's Comedy Watch: Cabin Boy (1994)
Format: BluRay from Kino Lorber
Well. I mean. We may not agree on Cabin Boy (1994), is what I'm saying.
I have no recollection of the first time I saw this movie, but for a window there, this was a film I watched quite a few times. Personally, I find this movie hysterical, which is why I should never be put in charge of anything, ever, I guess. Chris Elliot is one of those people you find funny, or you don't. And the movie is clearly one of those where they were trying to crack themselves up, not trying to sort out what would make the maximum number of people in Middle-America show up.
Look, comedy is subjective. I find half-man/ half-shark characters played somehow by Russ Tamblyn to be a GREAT idea. I like giants who dress in early 80's business-wear. I find the notion of a Fancy Lad nothing less than brilliant (and accurate).
There's absolutely a half-assed, not-quite-finished vibe to everything in the movie, despite some surprisingly decent FX (for a mid-90's lower budget film). But if any scene had more than three takes, I would be wildly surprised. And, it's kind of part of the charm.
The cast is extremely small, but still has some great folks aside from Elliot. Brion James. Brian Doyle-Murray, James Gammon, Tamblyn, Andy Richter, Ricki Lake (sort of, and I've heard she won't talk about it), Alfred Molina, Bob Elliott... And Melora Walters as the spunky swimmer. Not to mention David Letterman in his one movie role that led to one of the most notoriously dumb moments in Oscars history. And I need to give a special shout-out to actor/ singer Ann Magnuson, who is still foxy painted blue and with six arms.
It's a mix of anachronisms, eras, mythology and reality, with masted 19th century sailing vessels, demi-gods, flying cupcakes and Hawaiian resorts. It kind of has whatever they need in the moment, and it's sorta brilliant that way. It's wildly quotable, and the jokes come in unevenly, but perfectly, with minimal set-up and sudden, eruptive laughs.
But, people hate this movie.
Like, really hate it.
Angry hate it.
Yes, it is a stupid movie, but knowingly, smartly stupid, and not in a "look at the shenanigans of the Pi Beta Mu frat brothers!" kind of way. I think it's more of a "why is this supposed to be funny?" way. Which, you know, I can't draw you a map as to why this is funny. It just is.
There was a fairly recent article about how this movie came to be, how it was perceived and subsequently wrecked the careers of many involved. I dunno. I wish that happened to them. I saw a lot of movies in the 90's, and a lot of comedies, and I'm not sure you could pay me to rewatch an Ace Ventura film, for example. But I always think fondly of Cabin Boy, and it is a pretty good shibboleth for figuring out when you've found someone you can nod to knowingly.
But. You might hate it. You'd just be wrong and be living a poorer, more boring life.