Fans of unashamedly low-brow comedies may well be amused by the eccentricities of CABIN BOY, but more conventional viewers should probably beware.
Snide, superior Nathanial Mayweather (Chris Elliott) graduates from Stephenwood Finishing School with his future already assured: he stands to inherit his father's Hawaii-based hotel chain. Leaving the school, he so irritates the limo driver that he is thrown out on the road without his luggage.
He ends up in a seaside village, where he meets a sarcastic Old Salt (David Letterman) who ridicules his fey appearance and misdirects him to a fishing boat, The Filthy Whore, instead of his ocean liner. Nathanial is taken aboard by dim-witted Kenny (Andy Richter) and quartered in the cabin of
grizzled Captain Greybar (Ritch Brinkley). The next morning, he receives a rude awakening when he finds himself at sea with a stinking crew of fishermen, including Paps (James Gammon), Skunk (Brian-Doyle Murray), and Big Teddy (Brion James).
Nathanial persuades Kenny to redirect the ship's course to Hawaii, but Kenny is washed overboard during a severe storm. With his friend gone, the protesting dandy is made to perform every unsavory task on the ship. He's assigned to "Outward Watch," which entails spending a week on a raft, and is
visited by visions, including the ghost of Kenny and a huge, talking, floating cupcake that spits tobacco. The delirious youth leaps overboard but is rescued by Chocki (Russ Tamblyn), a fabled half-man/half-shark. Retrieving the raft, the crew is amazed to find Nathanial happy and well. He is now
under Chocki's protection.
When Nathanial spies a woman floating in the water, he's instantly smitten and rescues her with a fishing net. But when the sleeping beauty, Trina (Melora Walters), awakens, she's furious that her attempt to beat a world swimming record has been thwarted. Later, on an uncharted island, Nathanial
loses his virginity to the legendary six-armed Calli (Ann Magnuson) while The Filthy Whore sails off, leaving him behind with Trina. A newly masterful Nathanial successfully woos Trina while Calli's jealous husband, a giant named Mulligan (Mike Starr), seeks him aboard the fleeing boat and battles
the sailors. Riding the happily subdued Trina like a motorized surfboard, Nathanial joins the fight. Chocki intercedes, and Nathanial manages to strangle the giant with his own belt. He bids Chocki farewell and returns to the crew, who now accept him. At last in Hawaii, the transformed lad
confronts his father (Bob Elliott), renounces his birthright, rejoins Trina, and rides her off in pursuit of The Filthy Whore.
How one responds to CABIN BOY depends largely on how one feels about its star, the abrasively nerdy Chris Elliott. The son of radio comedian Bob Elliott, he first gained notice as a quirky writer-performer on David Letterman's "Late Night," where he regularly bedeviled his boss playing
disrespectful eccentrics and borderline psychos. Cheap but imaginative, CABIN BOY was shot almost entirely on soundstages in vivid Technicolor, lending it the charmingly artificial look of 1940s and 50s Hollywood. The film also draws inspiration from vintage seagoing epics like CAPTAINS
COURAGEOUS, as well as heroic fantasy adventures like THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. CABIN BOY offers a knowing and affectionate homage to the low-tech majesty of these earlier works while providing a surprisingly apt vehicle for Elliott's antics.
The film sank quickly at the box office but floats much better on video. The smaller image befits the gentle nature of the comedy and its modest conceits. Depending on one's point of view, Elliott is as good, or bad, as ever; the rest of the cast, especially the fishermen, provide sturdy
support. (Profanity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Fans of unashamedly low-brow comedies may well be amused by the eccentricities of CABIN BOY, but more conventional viewers should probably beware. Snide, superior Nathanial Mayweather (Chris Elliott) graduates from Stephenwood Finishing School with his… (more)