Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cabin Boy (Adam Resnick, 1994)

Profoundly moving, an inspirational triumph, and a fully-realized journey of self-discovery, these words, when arranged in the order I just put them in, believe or not, are actually being used in conjunction with Cabin Boy, the unfairly maligned masterpiece that makes that bloated trilogy look like a walk in the park. Bloated trilogy? Aren't most of them bloated? Oh yeah, you're right. Okay, you know the one where the short guy with big, hairy feet recycles a gaudy-looking piece of costume jewelry in a volcano at the top of Eyeball Mountain? Yeah. Well, this film, directed by Adam Resnick, makes that one look like... yeah, yeah, a walk in the park. You do realize that's quite the bold statement you just made? It is? Don't be coy, you know it's bold. I don't see how, as this film pretty much tells the same story, an arrogant fancy lad learns a valuable lesson about friendship, loyalty and life in general. Don't forget, he gets to clean his pipes all over Ann Magnuson's gorgeous blue gams. It's true, they don't show specifically where this particular fancy lad deposits his fancy wad, but let's get real, they're shapely, they're long, and, most importantly, they're blue! Do I need to repeat that? They're blue! While I could talk about making a mess all over Ann Magnuson's blue stems until the end of time, I think I better finish making that point I was sort of succinctly making about a minute ago. And what was that again? Oh, yeah, the bold statement. Wait a second, you're not just comparing Cabin Boy with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy because "Melora" means "fellowship" in Yoruba? What the fuck? That's the most preposterous thing I've ever heard. Well, am I right? You're absolutely right. It's just I'm shocked that you were able to come that conclusion so easily. We must share the same brain or something.

The best thing about Cabin Boy is that you don't have sit through over eleven hours of boner-destroying nonsense, as it clocks in at an economical eighty minutes. Besides, does the Middle Earth soap opera feature Melora Walters prancing about in a red bathing suit for a good chunk of its legendarily not-so spry running time? Don't bother checking your The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Blu-ray Extended Edition, it doesn't.

You know what else is great about Cabin Boy? I have no idea, but I'm sure you're about to tell me. It features a scene where Chris Elliott gets chewing tobacco spat in his face by a giant, floating, talking cupcake. What's so great about that? You got to be kidding me. It's subversively funny. I don't get it. Cupcakes don't talk, they don't float, and they certainly don't chew tobacco, hence, it's subversively funny. If you're not feeling the example I just gave you, even though you totally should be, there are plenty of other instances of subversive humour peppered throughout this, what did you call it earlier? An unfairly maligned masterpiece? No, not that. A fully-realized journey of self-discovery? Yeah, that's the stuff.

What is a fancy lad, and how does one become one? While jaunting up Brunswick Ave. the other night, enjoying the blooming gardens flourishing outside row after row of the overpriced row houses that line this historic street, I noticed a man wearing tight orange pants walking ahead of me. Since it was dark out, and the canopy of one-hundred year-old maple trees was blocking the light emanating from the streetlights,  I used the chromatic splendour that were his tight orange pants as a beacon to help guide me through the darkness.

I know, you're thinking to yourself, what's this got to do with, well, anything for that matter? Well, I think the guy in the tight orange pants was a fancy lad. Sure, he wasn't wearing his christening wig, but only a real fancy lad would wear tight orange pants in public. What's this? I'm being told by my fashion consultant Eva von Phabülous that tight orange pants are the hottest item for men this season. Excuse me, I have to ask Eva a follow up question: Did you say, men? Oh, you did. Just checking.

In my day, before the world became inundated with Johnny come lately fancy lads, you had to go finishing school to become a fancy lad. Or, more specifically, you had to attend the prestigious Stephenwood Finishing School, modeling fancy lads since the early 1780s. And that's exactly what Nathanial Mayweather (Chris Elliott) has been doing. And when we meet Nathanial, he's learning the proper way to tip a  bowler hat. You might not think a skill like that would useful in the real world. But don't forget, Nathanial is on his way to becoming a fancy lad. Meaning, he has no use for the real world, or does he?

Upon graduating, Nathanial is given a boarding pass to ride on the Queen Catherine, a luxury liner of some kind. Looking forward to working for his mega-important father in Hawaii, Nathanial's limousine is about to take him to the dock, when all of a sudden, the driver kicks him out of the car. It's implied that Nathanial insults the driver, which shouldn't be a surprise as this fancy boy is a bit of a prick. Forced to embark on his first ever brisk walk, Nathanial comes to a fork in the road. Thinking he picked the right direction, given the helpful nature of the sign leading the way and the confident spring in his step, we actually learn that he went the wrong way; all thanks to a strategically placed cow.

Ending up in a seaside town by the sea, Nathanial consults a grubby street merchant (David Letterman) selling stuffed monkeys for help. Realizing right away that he is in the presence of a clueless half-wit, the grubby street merchant uses emasculating language to belittle the wayward fancy lad. To add insult to injury, the grubby street merchant sends Nathanial in the direction of The Filthy Whore, a rundown fishing vessel.

Even though The Filthy Whore is probably nothing like The Queen Catherine, Nathanial hops aboard nonetheless thinking an elaborate prank is being pulled on him; he declares The Filthy Whore to be "deliciously chic." Greeted by the equally dense Kenny (Andy Richter), the ship's cabin boy, Nathanial makes himself at home in the captain's quarters. When the rest of the crew arrive, they'll be shocked to learn that a fancy lad is accompanying them on their three month long fishing trip.

Shocked? Ya think? Well, let's meet them, shall we? There's Captain Greybar (Ritch Brinkley), who inadvertently spends the night with Nathanial; Big Teddy (Brion James), who intentionally throws Nathanial's christening wig in the ocean; Paps (James Gammon), who, according to Nathanial, is the drunken, abusive grandfather he never had; and Skunk (Brian Doyle-Murray), The Filthy Whore's resident mythology expert.

Whereas the fresh-faced Andy Richter is deadpan perfection as the world's dimmest cabin boy (his harem girl dance is the stuff of dim legend), the rest of the crew ooze an appropriate amount of grizzled boorishness.

Don't forget Ricki Lake as the ship's stoic, weather-beaten figurehead.

Using Kenny's dimness to change The Filthy Whore's course (he wants to go to Hawaii, not spend three months on a fishing boat with a bunch of monstrously insane people), he causes them to head straight toward Hell's Bucket. And judging by its name, it's not somewhere you would want to visit. To punish Nathanial for this act of navigational incompetence, the crew drag him behind the ship on a tiny raft.

Expecting him to die, the crew are surprised when they find out that not only has Nathanial survived nine whole days on a tiny raft, but he managed to befriend Chocki (Russ Tamblyn), a flighty half man-half shark.

You know what this film needs? A little Melora Walters. Coming right up.

As far as cinematic introductions go... can't get any better than Melora Walters' in Cabin Boy.

What about Omar Sharif's introduction  in Lawrence of Arabia? Or Darth Vadar in Star Wars? Fuck that noise. Real cinema buffs know deep down inside that Melora Walters' intro in Cabin Boy has way more going on when it comes to being iconic and junk.

As expected, Nathanial develops a bit of crush on Melora Walters' Trina, who is, or, I should say, was, hoping to swim around the world. You see, by bringing Trina aboard The Filthy Whore, via a fishing net, her attempt to break the world's record is forfeited; something about her not being allowed to touch solid objects, and the last time I checked, The Filthy Whore is a solid object.

After a nasty encounter with an iceberg monster causes severe damage to the ship, the crew of The Filthy Whore are forced to head toward a deserted island to do some repairs.

Deserted? I hope you're joking. I was promised there would be a blue-skinned, six-armed, leggy Ann Magnuson in this film. And since there's only around ten minutes left, she had better show up soon. Don't worry, I don't know why I said the island was deserted, Ann Magnuson is coming soon. Damn straight, I didn't sit through seventy minutes of Chris Elliott acting like an imbecile to not get any Ann Magnuson.

Playing Calli, who, like I said, has blue skin and six-arms, Ann Magnuson teaches inexperienced seaman how to fuck. Don't be crude. Whoops, sorry about that. Well, it's what she does. Yeah, you could have said it in a more genteel manner. Anyway, I liked when Nathanial tells Calli that she must spend a fortune on mittens.

Imagine if Ann Magnuson's character had six legs instead of six arms? Ahh, I can't think about it. You better not think about it, or else Calli's husband (Mike Starr) might decide to cut off your head with a pair of nail clippers.

The future we lay out for ourselves is never what we expect, and Cabin Boy solidifies that unpredictableness in a manner that is both enlightening and masterful. Whether we be fancy lads or humour-challenged cybergoths, we all have choices to make, and this film's underlying message makes a pretty good argument that one should try to exist in a realm that isn't necessarily situated in the vicinity of your comfort zone. A funny, breezy film that temporarily infused my spirit with mirth, whimsy and shitload of roasted pumpkin seeds, Cabin Boy is the Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World of seafaring movies about moronic fancy lads in christening wigs.


  1. I used to watch Get a Life back when it first premiered on Fox way back in 1990. Oh, the laughs I had -- and the sheer proto-hipster pleasure I took in being ahead of the curve!

    I win the fucking internets.

  2. Ann Magnuson, blue and with six arms. And with those killer legs. Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ. I don't think the "Mahabharata" covered this anywhere.

  3. GREAT post Yum-Yum! I'll have to revisit this 90's gem...Who said nothing good came out of the 90's?? Well, I did but anyways...;-)

  4. @SINAP: There was a bit of a Cabin Boy reunion on the Conan last night. The sight of Chris Elliot and Andy Richter sitting together brought back fond memories of two weeks ago when I watched Cabin Boy for the very first time.

    Yikes, it looks like I lose the fucking internets.

    @ido: The fact you called Ann Magnuson's legs "killer" made me as happy as a c.l.a.m. Sure, you were just speaking the truth, but still...

    @Tommy: Thanks. I've been known to say a disparaging thing or two about the decade as well. But if you look hard enough, there be gold in those '90s.

  5. I've always loved it and fuck the haters. I think this has a Canadian sensibility.

    One of the greatest lines in movie history: "Kid, we're just here to catch fish and stink"

    "Mostly the latter"

    It's in the delivery.

  6. James Gammon's delivery of the line "mostly the latter" is first-rate... much like Ann Magnuson's blue gams.

  7. @Yums and the other dude:

    Whoever actually thinks that the '90s "sucked" is a person with scant knowledge of cinema or of music, indeed.

  8. I have roughly around 15 movie reviews for films that were made during the 1990s that are just itching to melt some faces.

    Hail Sheetar!

  9. "Cabin Boy is the Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World of seafaring movies about moronic fancy lads in christening wigs."

    STAAHHHHPPPP! My sides, they are splitting.

    Dumb Karim Amir fact: I dated a guy who looked like Chris Elliot.

    I loved Melora Walters in Magnolia.

  10. Chris Elliot looks hot in a christening wig.

    Speaking of hot, I recall Melora Walters' character in Magnolia being quite the hot mess.