Boat Trip

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In an early scene in “Boat Trip,” a man gives his boyfriend a peck on the cheek. Behind me, a young man in the theater said, “Sick!” I thought: Why would you go to a movie about two straight men who get stuck on a gay cruise if even a simple peck on the cheek between guys grosses you out? Shouldn’t you expect that sort of thing in this sort of movie? (I should note that earlier in the movie, when Cuba Gooding Jr. vomited on Vivica A. Fox, the young man behind me had no discernible reaction whatsoever.)

But “Boat Trip” was designed for that audience, the adolescent males who titter at the suggestion of homosexuality and who want a chance to point and laugh at the homos. It’s also an opportunity to make childish, obvious double-entendres, and to enjoy a film in which virtually every female character is dumb, slutty or horrible. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the film was produced entirely by 13-year-old boys.

In fact, though, it was written by Mort Nathan and William Bigelow, and directed by Nathan (his debut in that capacity). Nathan was a long-time writer on “The Golden Girls,” and the film’s choppy set-up/punch line format shows his sitcom roots. (Not that I’m dissing “The Golden Girls.”) Bigelow is a USA Network veteran, having written for “Silk Stalkings,” “Renegade” and “Pacific Blue.” The less said about those programs, the better, I think.

Resumés aside, what Nathan and Bigelow have concocted is an embarrassing and unfunny comedy whose premise is unbelievable and whose characters are asinine. Not only would these events never occur in real life; even if they did, there’s no way anyone would react to them the way these people do. It is all so far afield of logic and reason that it would be virtually impossible to make it funny.

Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr., fresh off the towering achievement that was “Snow Dogs,” plays Jerry, a poor sap still recovering, six months later, from his cold girlfriend Felicia (Vivica A. Fox) dumping him. Seeking to cheer him up, his best pal Nick (Horatio Sanz) takes him on a singles cruise. However, due to a conflagration occurring outside the travel agency, a willful travel agent (Will Ferrell, amusing as always in a cameo) intentionally puts them on a gay cruise.

Already there is trouble with this film. Never mind that such scheming is implausible. We will accept that Nathan and Bigelow needed to get their protagonists onto a gay cruise SOMEHOW and, having failed to come up with a believable reason, instead had a travel agent do it on purpose out of spite. I suspend my disbelief for science-fiction films all the time, so why not for a comedy?

No, the trouble is in the methodology. Just before the travel agent pulls the switcheroo, Jerry and Nick bicker like a married couple. Here I thought, “Oh, the travel agent is going to misunderstand, think they’re a gay couple, and put them on a gay cruise — an innocent mistake.” That seems somewhat reasonable, at least within the realm of farce.

Instead, though, Jerry’s occasional flamboyance and femininity is just that — occasional. It comes and goes, as if the film can’t decide whether it make it part of the premise or not.

Anyway, Nick and Jerry apparently never look at their tickets again until they actually arrive on the boat. And then, since they are the two stupidest people alive, they don’t realize IMMEDIATELY, as anyone else would, that 1) there are no women on this boat, 2) all the men are walking around in pairs, and 3) all the men look gay. Discovering that their stateroom has only one bed — with a heart-shaped pillow and a mirror on the ceiling — also does not tip them off. Neither does the brochure’s promise that all passengers “will be treated like queens.” No, it takes someone — Roger Moore as an aging flamer named Lloyd — actually SAYING THE WORDS “gay cruise” for them to realize they are, in fact, on a gay cruise. By this time, of course, the ship has left port and they’re stuck.

After some slapstick where Nick and Jerry keep getting into altercations that, to observers, look like lovers’ tiffs, Jerry meets the only woman on board, a dance instructor named Gabriela (Roselyn Sanchez). She assumes he’s gay, and since the film wants to employ as many clichés as possible, he aggressively perpetuates that misconception. So now it’s a romantic comedy where one party has lied to the other, and when he or she discovers the lie, there will be a break-up, followed by a tearful reunion.

Meanwhile, Nick is rather bull-headedly anti-gay, which means he’s due for a Valuable Lesson about tolerance and stuff.

I don’t know whether the gay community ought to find the movie offensive or not. Many of the gay characters are stereotypes, but the gay world’s embracing of camp and irony — especially with regard to themselves — suggests that such portrayals don’t generally bother them. And all of the gay characters are shown to be nice, friendly folks. The movie’s humor, such as it is, isn’t really at the expense of homosexuals but at the expense of the characters who are stuck on a boat with them. It’s a fine line, but there is a difference.

But the film’s offensive or inoffensive nature is beside the point. The real issue is that it is not funny. The jokes are like this: Gabriela tells Jerry, while dancing, that he’s light on his feet; Nick chimes in, “This whole place is light on its feet!” Because everyone’s gay, you see.

On “Saturday Night Live,” Horatio Sanz makes me (and Jimmy Fallon) laugh. I was amused several times by him in this movie, too. He has such a gleeful, infectious energy about him, and a keen sense of comedic delivery. I would like to see him in something better.

Gooding, on the other hand, mugs and sputters his way through the dreadful script, seemingly oblivious to how bad it is. Rather than elevating some of the material, he is content to wallow in it. Won’t someone give this man something good to do?

D (1 hr., 34 min.; R, a lot of harsh profanity, some very graphic sexual dialogue, some very strong sexuality, a ton of innuendo, some nudity.)

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