BOAT TRIP

Grade: F

As if Cuba Gooding, Jr. hadn’t debased himself sufficiently in such unhappy mistakes as the rabid “Rat Race” and the tepid “Snow Dogs,” he now outdoes himself with a farce that’s extraordinarily offensive as well as stupid. “Boat Trip” is about a straight guy–on the rebound after being dumped by his girlfriend Felicia (Vivica A. Fox), whom he’d vomited on during on hot-air balloon ride–who mistakenly goes on a cruise designed for gays. Initially distressed at the turn of events, he changes his mind when he meets Gabriella (Roselyn Sanchez), an entrancing crew member who’s been hurt so often that she appreciates chumming around with a man she assumes couldn’t possibly be interested in her. To romance her, therefore, he has to pretend to be homosexual, and get his chubby buddy (SNL’s Horatio Sanz) to go along with the imposture. You can just imagine all the wacky shenanigans that result, especially when his erstwhile fiancĂ©e shows up to win him back. You’d be well advised, at least, to leave them all to the imagination, because actually experiencing them is pretty horrible. They involve not only the misrepresentations between the fellow and his would-be soul-mate, but a team of Scandinavian “tanning” contestants who make their way onto the ship along with a grotesque old “coach” (Lin Shaye, from several Farrelly Brothers movies) and a determined old queen who takes an interest in our hero’s rotund pal–a role played by none other than former James Bond Roger Moore.

“Boat Trip” is the sort of astronomically awful farce that leaves no leering or vulgar gag unused and no stereotype unexplored in its search for cheap laughs. But one must admit that it’s even worse when it tries to be sensitive, and abandons even the slightest glimmer of logic in the attempt. Consider a scene in which, within the span of about thirty seconds, the picture’s lovable drag queen Hector (Maurice Godin)–an obligatory character–first claims only recently to have come out, but then follows up with a lachrymose story about how his father hadn’t spoken to him for twenty years because he so disliked gays. Of course, it’s hardly fair to expect this kind of farce to respect even the flimsiest rules of plausibility, but still….

Why sentient actors would allow themselves to be trapped in such stuff is incomprehensible–certainly an empty resumĂ© would be preferable to one to one that listed a title like this. But here they are nonetheless. Gooding mugs, smirks and engages in lots of unfunny slapstick; one feels nothing but pained embarrassment for him. Moore keeps the proverbial stuff upper lip while he delivers his string of infamous lines, and Sanchez slinks about while managing to make most of her dialogue at least intelligible (though she proves incapable of the word “deceitful”). Fox’s shrew routine, though, is old hat indeed. As for Sanz, he’ll have to learn that the kind of brutally broad shtick that works on the small screen needs severe toning down on the large one. Will Ferrell shows up for a cameo as a travel agent, presumably as favor to his SNL associate, and proves as creepy as ever in just a minute or so of footage. It only remains to note that Mort Nathan’s direction is cruelly labored, and that the picture has an unpleasantly garish look.

In the final analysis, you’d have to go back to “Gilligan’s Island” to find an equally bad comedic shipwreck. Cancel your reservation immediately, even if the ticket is non-refundable.