- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

If Oscar statues were animate, the one belonging to Cuba Gooding Jr. would have jumped off its mantel perch and gone AWOL a long time ago.
Just take a quick look at the guy's post-"Jerry Maguire" resume: the unintentionally funny "Instinct," the maudlin "Men of Honor," the preposterous "Chill Factor." And Disney's "Snow Dogs" you forgot about that turkey, didn't you?
Enter "Boat Trip," Mr. Gooding's latest vehicle.
The time for diplomacy has passed. The time for action has come.
Someone needs to go on a mission of mercy. Someone needs to stage an intervention and rescue that supporting-actor trophy from a lifetime of shame and ill repute.
"Boat Trip," starring Mr. Gooding alongside the lovably chubby but marginally humorous Horatio Sanz, is one of the stupidest films released so far this year, and, if you've seen "Just Married" or "A Guy Thing," you know that's saying something.
In a disastrous directorial debut, Mort Nathan, who co-wrote the very funny Farrelly brothers' movie "Kingpin," turned a premise full of comedic possibilities straight buddies mistakenly aboard a cruise ship chockablock with homosexual men into a stinking heap of misfired jokes, numskulled sight gags and corny sentimentality.
This is apparent at the outset of the movie, when Mr. Gooding's character, a recently heartbroken guy named Jerry, and best-pal Nick (Mr. Sanz) book a luxury cruise on which they hope to rub elbows, and possibly other appendages, with scads of swimsuited women.
At a travel agency, we encounter comedians Will Farrell and Artie Lange, both "Old School" alumni, whose cameo characters deviously arrange Jerry and Nick's boys-only cruise.
It's easily the funniest scene of the movie and immediately provokes the question: Why couldn't these guys have had starring roles?
Instead, we get a half-naked Mr. Gooding dancing in drag, enjoying his antics way more than the audience will.
We also get homosexual boilerplate: the flamboyant flamers, the muscleheads and Roger Moore as an aristocratic queen.
Hollywood, for all its PC piety, has nowhere near the chutzpah it would take to put homosexuals at the center of a movie romance, so in "Boat Trip" they're basically used for punch lines and props.
Still, homosexuals shouldn't be offended by this movie. It makes a pathetically heartfelt plea for more understanding between straights and homosexuals, which is symptomatic of Mr. Nathan's fundamental miscalculation.
Instead of letting "Boat Trip" tumble into the "Kingpin"-ian gutter where it belonged, the first-time director actually tried to make a respectable comedy out of it.
Sorry, but you can't have it both ways: You can't parade the Swedish bikini team, who end up on the ship on the barest of story-line excuses, and count on female viewers to respond warmly to a half-baked love story.
How does a straight man find love on a homosexual cruise, you ask?
As it happens, there's an exotic-looking dance instructor (Roselyn Sanchez) aboard the ship. Hurt by old boyfriends and soured on love, she has found refuge from her shattered world of heterosexual relationships in the professional company of harmless homosexual men.
Sensing her hostility and world-weariness, Jerry tries to pass himself off as a homosexual to get close enough to win her over. The gambit works, of course, but there's an old girlfriend (Vivica A. Fox) in the picture who wants to reconcile, thereby threatening to ruin his scheme.
"Boat Trip," in sum, is stuck in the closet: It can't decide if it's a romantic comedy or a sleazy romp. So ultimately it's a drippy muddle with neither genuine laughs nor amorous sparks.
Consider this movie outed.

*
TITLE: "Boat Trip"
RATING: R (Strong sexual content, profanity and drug references)
CREDITS: Directed by Mort Nathan. Written by Mr. Nathan and William Bigelow.
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

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