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  Cabin Boy The Strife Aquatic
Year: 1994
Director: Adam Resnick
Stars: Chris Elliott, Ritch Brinkley, James Gammon, Brian Doyle-Murray, Brion James, Melora Walters, David Letterman, Ann Magnuson, Russ Tamblyn, Ricki Lake, Mike Starr, Andy Richter, I.M. Hobson, Alex Nevil, David H. Sterry, Bob Elliott, Alfred Molina
Genre: Comedy, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Nathanial Mayweather (Chris Elliott) has spent the last few years at a school for young gentlemen where he has been educated in the ways of becoming a fancy lad. Unfortunately, none of the guidance towards good behaviour and etiquette appears to have sunk in, for he is just as obnoxious on his graduation as he was when he arrived, and the Principal is glad to see the back of him as Nathanial returns to his life of pampered luxury. His father has sent a limousine to meet him and escort him to his destination, the port where he will catch a cruise liner with no expense spared heading for a paradise on Hawaii, sounds simple enough but his bad manners prove to be his undoing when the driver throws him out for constantly insulting him...

Cabin Boy was a little film that never stood a chance; originally it was to be a Tim Burton effort along the lines of Beetlejuice, yet somewhere along the way he bailed out, only staying on as producer and screenwriter Adam Resnick took over the helm. It was to be the only film he ever directed. His experience in television comedy matched the star Chris Elliott, who at the time this was made was just appearing in his director's sitcom Get a Life, a show that had whittled down its viewers to a loyal but more importantly small following, and when the attempt to create a star vehicle for Elliott occurred at the same time, Cabin Boy was shelved as too niche to generate the big bucks.

Nevertheless, Elliott did command at least an appreciation of his rather abrasive form of comedy among fans of the form, and eventually this was snuck out to a few cinemas - though wound up straight to video elsewhere - in America in 1995, two years after it had been completed. Predictably, without much of a push and in spite of Burton's name attached, it flopped, not that it was going to be a blockbuster anyway, leaving it to be discovered by, yet again, a small but loyal following for whom this was their personal comedy gem, responding to its relentlessly silly humour and a protagonist designed to be unlikeable, the biggest gamble in its arsenal and not one that many comedians can pull off when they make their forays onto the big screen.

Bill Murray in Groundhog Day was one who could, possessing that sarcastic charm and helped by the fact his character was intended to be improving over the course of the story, but Elliott, who was also in that film as Murray's cameraman, was not able to drum up that kind of response in an audience which was why he was perhaps better suited to supporting roles, not that he turned down opportunities to strut his stuff in leads when they arose. Funnily enough, as the caption after the opening credits indicates, this was also the tale of an unsympathetic chap who grows into a decent human being by the end of the movie, though the sense of aggressively quirky humour remained in place all the way through, as if Resnick and Elliott were unwilling to let the audience off the hook right to the denouement.

Nathanial winds up at the wrong harbour and thanks to deliberately erroneous advice from the director's old boss David Letterman also gets onto the wrong ship, being so idiotic he cannot tell the difference between this battered fishing vessel and a cruise liner, thinking they are having a theme party or somesuch. They're not, and soon he has made enemies of the fishermen onboard, a rough-hewn lot led by Captain Graybar (Ritch Brinkley) and featuring recognisable faces (and voices in James Gammon's case) like Brion James and Brian Doyle-Murray, no thanks to sending the cabin boy over the side in a storm when he tries to divert the boat to Hawaii. Now they are in some vague spoof of Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies in a region of the ocean known as Hell's Bucket, which features such blankly surreal characters as Russ Tamblyn's shark man or Melora Walters as a round the world swimmer most aggravated to be interrupted by Nathanial who immediately professes his love for her. Definitely not for everyone, this was admirable for its utterly bloodyminded quality. Music by Steve Bartek.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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