Cabin Boy (1994)
Chris Elliot has always been a pretty divisive comedian. You either can tune into his particular brand of off-kilter juvenilia or you running screaming in the other direction. I am a member of the first group, but even I have to admit that Elliot’s one and only star vehicle, Cabin Boy, is a pretty thin and unsuccessful effort.
Cabin Boy is a strange, fish-out-of-water comedy that stars Elliot as a “fancy lad” who accidently finds himself aboard a fishing trawler when he really was supposed to travelling on a luxury liner. So, the basic premise, and the film’s only real joke, revolves around how many times and in how many ways the sailors insult and berate Elliot. Elliot has to clean the deck with his tongue (“tastes like marzipan”), is forced to trail the boat while riding in a tiny raft in the baking sun (he hallucinates a giant, flying cupcake that spits tobacco juice. Why? Why not?), and samples from the chum bucket as if it were soup (“spicy”).
Along with Elliot, the cast includes Brian Doyle-Murray, Brion James,
Ritch Brinkley and James Gammon as the grizzled seamen, Melora Walters as a swimmer who becomes Elliot’s love-interest, Ann Magnuson as a many-armed and lonely cave-dweller, Russ Tamblyn as Chocki, a legendary half-man, half- shark creature that takes a shine to Elliot, and Ricki Lake, in the wordless and thankless role as the figurehead hanging on the front of the boat. David Letterman also makes a cameo at the film’s beginning trying to sell Elliot a stuffed monkey (“Man, I hate them fancy lads”).
Writer-director Adam Resnick did make one good decision by filming the entirety of Cabin Boy in a blatantly
artificial manner, never once.trying to convey that anything happening on the screen is anything but a cartoonish fantasy. Even the long shots of the boat at sea are filmed in such a way that it looks just like a toy in a bathtub.
Also, the special effects are cheap, and the makeup and costuming are strictly amateurish which, in their own way, work to create the desired effect.
I’ll never admit that Cabin Boy is a good movie in the slightest. It isn’t. But I can’t say that I didn’t smile or giggle a couple of times during its mercifully short running time of barely 80 minutes. If you’re a Chris Elliot fan, give it a try, just don’t expect too much. If you aren’t? You can safely skip it because, let’s be honest, Cabin Boy isn’t really much of a movie.