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Dustin Putman

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Boat Trip (2003)
2 Stars

Directed by Mort Nathan
Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Horatio Sanz, Roselyn Sanchez, Vivica A. Fox, Victoria Silvstedt, Lin Shaye, Roger Moore, Maurice Godin, Zen Gesner, Richard Roundtree, Bob Gunton, Ken Hudson Campbell, William Bumiller, Noah York, Artie Lange, Will Ferrell
2003 – 93 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for language, sexual content, and drug use).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 22, 2003.

"Boat Trip" joins the ranks of 1995's "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar" and 1996's "The Birdcage" as a big-screen gay-oriented comedy made for mainstream consumption. In other words, it is of the cookie-cutter variety and nothing more than one big stereotype--even if some of the stereotypes are admittedly accurate to a degree. Directed by Mort Nathan, the film has its definite amusing moments, but at its core is a defeatist artificiality that leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

Six months after his girlfriend, Felicia (Vivica A. Fox), dumped him for a hunkier guy, the depressed Jerry (Cuba Gooding Jr.) still hasn't been able to get his ex off his mind. In an attempt to get him around a bevy of beautiful women and over Felicia, best friend Nick (Horatio Sanz) persuades Jerry to go with him on a week-long cruise. What they do not realize until hours after the ship has left port is that, through a cruel trick set up by the travel agency, they have entered a gay cruise. Without any way to get off the ship, Jerry and Nick attempt to make the most of it. As Nick bonds with a group of gay poker players, Jerry becomes smitten with beautiful dance instructor Gabriela (Roselyn Sanchez). Because Gabriela believes him to be gay, Jerry must convincingly act the part even as he secretly is falling in love with her.

The plot hook of "Boat Trip"—two straight males who accidentally end up on a gay cruise—is clever and pretty wacky. What follows is little more than a stream of skits and gags with just enough of a narrative to pass as a 93-minute comedy. Some of it is undeniably funny, such as the ongoing advances Nick receives from both a smooth-talking older gentleman (Roger Moore) and a horny, over-the-hill tanning coach (Lin Shaye). Additionally, the mere sight of Cuba Gooding Jr. on stage in drag, lip-synching to Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out," is something hard to forget and unavoidably destined to tickle one's funny bone.

Unfortunately, "Boat Trip" strains all of its comic possibilities long before the finish line has arrived, and what is left is another one of those boring romances that hinges dumbly on the mistaken identity of one of the characters. It is a given that Gabriela will eventually find out Jerry has been lying to her about his alleged homosexuality, and the predictable breakup will be followed by Jerry eventually convincing Gabriela that he understands the error of his ways. This sort of plot contrivance can work if the writing is worth two cents, but here the viewer is never given a reason to care about the characters or the relationship. Everything is at the service of the plot, and the result is more than a little tiresome.

What makes "Boat Trip" tolerable are the actors, who clearly are having a ball. Cuba Gooding Jr. (2002's "Snow Dogs"), still searching for a solid follow-up role that makes good on his 1996 Oscar win for "Jerry Maguire," hasn't found it here. Nonetheless, he and Horatio Sanz (2001's "Tomcats") make a likable comedic pair, playing off one another with natural ease. As Gabriela, Roselyn Sanchez (2001's "Rush Hour 2") is a promising find, despite her eerie resemblance to Michael Jackson in some shots that is simply too uncanny for its own good. In the thankless part of Felicia, the underrated Vivica A. Fox (2002's "Juwanna Mann") is once again criminally wasted. And ex-007 Roger Moore delightfully plays against type as a gay vacationer attracted to Sanz's Nick.

"Boat Trip" is an innocent enough diversion, innocuous and silly, but there is not enough worthwhile material to withhold its 93-minute running time. A one-minute speech about tolerance is thrown into the mix just to be politically correct, but it comes off as more of a cheap ploy so as no one in the audience will be offended by what surrounds it. The final fifteen minutes are, especially, a chore to sit through, as a number of false ends come and go without any sight of the end credits. Still, the movie does have its moments (Artie Lange and Will Ferrell turn in hilarious cameos at the onset); it's too bad there aren't more of them to make "Boat Trip" more than just mere throwaway fodder.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman