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Boat Trip (March 17/03)

And the downward spiral of Cuba Gooding Jr's career continues.

Ever since winning the Oscar for his admittedly stellar performance in Jerry Maguire, he's been squandering his obvious talent by appearing in lowbrow fare such as The Chill Factor, Snow Dogs, and now Boat Trip. What can the possible explanation be for his continued appearance in such silly flicks? Perhaps as a young boy, he dreamed of starring in stupid comedies and dumb action movies - and the whole Oscar win thing was just a bump in the road for him. Whatever the case may be, Gooding Jr shows no sign of abandoning the sort of movies folks like Carrot Top and Tom Arnold would be better suited for.

Boat Trip casts Gooding Jr as Jerry, an easy going guy who's just been dumped by his long-time girlfriend (Vivica A. Fox). His best buddy Nick (Horatio Sanz) coerces him to take a cruise that's guaranteed to be filled with available women - but through circumstances too convoluted to be explained here, the two wind up on a cruise for gay men. By the time they realize what's going on, the ship's left port - leaving the pair stuck onboard for a week. But Jerry unwittingly finds himself falling in love with a beautiful dance instructor named Gabriella - who, of course, thinks he's a homosexual.

It's a great premise that could've made for a hilarious wacky comedy of 1980s proportions, but co-writer/director Mort Nathan blows it right from the word go. The most obvious mistake he makes is having Nick and Jerry figure out they're on a gay cruise almost immediately (they essentially board the boat and find out a few minutes later). A lot of comedy should've come from their reactions as they wandered around the ship wondering where all the women were. But in having them discover the truth so quickly, the film settles into predictability a lot sooner than it should have. The romantic subplot between Jerry and Gabriella receives so much screentime, it can hardly even be considered a subplot.

But more than that, the majority of Boat Trip just isn't funny. Though the film tries awfully hard to elicit laughter, most of the jokes here are of the stupid and obvious variety. For example, there's a running gag featuring Nick's efforts to sleep with a beautiful Swedish model who's found her way on board (don't ask) - except he's constantly thwarted by her mannish coach (played by Lin Shaye, a Farrelly brothers regular). It's not exactly a scenario that lends itself to high-class banter, but the potential for hilarity to ensue is certainly there. However, rather than try something different with such exceedingly familiar comedic bits, Nathan sticks with the tried and true; the end result of virtually every humorous moment can be seen coming a mile away.

As for the actors, Gooding Jr and Sanz deliver exactly the sort of over-the-top performances one would expect from such a film. Gooding Jr's not doing anything here we haven't already seen him do many, many times before, while Sanz is clearly trying quite hard to flesh out his barely written character. The only standout is Roger Moore as a confidently suave gay man who's fruitlessly pursuing Nick. Moore looks as though he's having a lot of fun spoofing his Bond image, and provides the film with its only laughs (and those were chuckles more than anything else, really).

2003 has, thus far, been rife with lousy comedies and Boat Trip is the latest. Despite a seemingly foolproof premise, the film never lives up to it and only serves as yet another nail in Cuba Gooding Jr's once promising career.

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