Mean-spirited humor rocks `Boat' too much

March 21, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Boat Trip is so relentless in its crudity, so indiscriminate in its pursuit of tasteless laughs, so pure in its determination to offend, one almost has to admire it.

It's even funny. Sometimes.

But more often, it's simply embarrassing, 95 minutes of gay jokes filled with the sort of mean-spirited humor that's more discomfiting than hilarious. When the laughs do land, it seems more a matter of getting lucky than anything the filmmakers actually planned.

It also marks yet another sad chapter in the puzzling career decline of Cuba Gooding Jr., who since winning an Oscar for Jerry Maguire has seemed bent on appearing in as many bad comedies as he can squeeze into his schedule. That's a career strategy he desperately needs to rethink.

Gooding is Jerry, whose heart has been broken by his shallow, gold-digging girlfriend, Felicia (Vivica A. Fox). Crestfallen, he reluctantly listens to the entreaties of his best friend, Nick (Saturday Night Live's Horatio Sanz), who urges him to get back in the game. His suggestion: a cruise. What better place to pick up women?

Trouble is, the boys end up on a ship filled with gay men. Oops!

But hey, things don't turn out as bad as you'd think. Nick, though horrified at first, thinks he's hit the jackpot when the ship rescues a boatload of bikini-clad Swedes. As for Jerry, he has the good fortune to almost drown but be rescued by the ship's ultra-hot dance instructor, Gabriela (the gorgeous Roselyn Sanchez, wearing a succession of outfits straight out of every straight guy's fantasy).

The lady, it seems, has had it with men - a problem Jerry circumvents by letting her assume he's gay. Of course, the two start falling for each other, leading to all sorts of worries about what will happen when Gabriela learns the truth.

No gay stereotype goes unperpetuated in Boat Trip, and it's no excuse to argue that it's all supposed to be a joke. Nor is it an excuse to note that both Jerry and Nick end up finding that gays aren't so bad after all.

The actors in Boat Trip give it their best, and actually turn in some pretty good work. Gooding is unafraid to go over the top and adds some heart to material that really doesn't deserve it, while Sanz is far more effective as a second banana than anything seen on SNL has ever suggested. When the movie hits, it's because of the energy and goodwill these guys bring to the endeavor, not because of anything so pedestrian as good humor.

Sun Score: **

Boat Trip

Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Horatio Sanz, Roselyn Sanchez

Directed by Mort Nathan

Rated R (language, sexuality)

Released by Artisan

Time 95 minutes

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