Good-natured 'Boat Trip' sets sail with a liberating spirit

Times Staff Writer

"Boat Trip" imagines what might happen when two straight guys looking for romance find themselves booked on a 10-day gay cruise in the Mediterranean. The result is hilarious because Cuba Gooding Jr. and "Saturday Night Live's" rotund Horatio Sanz play the straights and because writer-director Mort Nathan and his co-writer William Bigelow take an affectionate tone while working up lots of outrageous and raunchy dialogue and situations.

Like "La Cage aux Folles," "Boat Trip" is nonthreatening but goes a step further in presenting a wide spectrum of gay men. There are flamboyant drag queens aboard, but by and large the gay passengers are ordinary men. This nod to reality anchors freewheeling shenanigans designed to appeal to the widest audience possible.

Gooding's Jerry wallows interminably in self-pity after being dumped by his girlfriend (Vivica A. Fox) until his pal Nick (Sanz) sells him on the idea of a cruise with the promise that there will be three women aboard for every man. But when the aggressive and uninhibited Nick insults a travel agent, the agent's business and emotional partner (an unbilled Will Ferrell) books the pair on the gay cruise as revenge.

Despite a conspicuous absence of women, the truth about the cruise doesn't sink in until the ocean liner has weighed anchor. Jerry and Nick panic, but things look up for Jerry when he meets gorgeous dance instructor Gabriella (Roselyn Sanchez) and for Nick when the liner rescues a Swedish team bound for a tanning contest in Hawaii. The dozen bikini-clad beauties look like a year's worth of Playboy centerfolds, with the spectacular Inga (Victoria Silvstedt) amazingly responsive to the crass and unprepossessing Nick. In an amusing bit of casting, Roger Moore turns up as a suave chubby-chaser zeroing in on Nick.

"Boat Trip" is happily a no-holds-barred, all-out farce in which zany complications escalate rapidly and continually. The filmmakers by and large get away with all the raunchiness they serve up, and amid all the mayhem Jerry and Nick experience an unexpected sense of liberation through their contacts with the gay passengers.

There is the obligatory, inevitably self-conscious moment when Nick confesses to his new friend Hector (Maurice Godin), an effeminate but gutsy Latino, that his shipboard poker buddies, all of them gay, are regular guys, even the cross-dressing pastry cook. It's arguably a moment essential to a movie that is trying to be as mainstream as "Boat Trip" is. But having Hector, in trying to bring Nick up to speed on gay banter, resort to going on about "the divine Miss M" and other things "to die for" is more than a little passe. Even middlest Middle America deserves something more up-to-date. Gooding is more than secure enough to go along with the movie's gags, and Sanz reveals that behind the bluster, Nick can be a pretty pathetic fellow. Sanchez and Fox provide sharp foil for Gooding as does Moore for Sanz. Lin Shaye, as the tanning team's tough, ferociously protective coach, is paired with Sanz in the movie's wildest and most frantically tasteless sequence. But in its frenetic, good-natured way, "Boat Trip" is a trip.


'Boat Trip'

MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content, language and some drug use

Times guidelines: The humor gets very raunchy and is definitely not for children.

Cuba Gooding Jr....Jerry

Horatio Sanz...Nick

Roselyn Sanchez...Gabriella

Vivica A. Fox...Felicia

Maurice Godin...Hector

Roger Moore...Lloyd

An Artisan Entertainment presentation. Director Mort Nathan. Producers Brad Krevoy, Gerhard Schmidt, Frank Hubner, Andrew Sugerman. Executive producer Sabine Muller. Screenplay Nathan and William Bigelow. Cinematographer Shawn Maurer. Editor John Axness. Music Robert Folk. Costumes Tim Chappel. Production designer Charles Breen. Art director Uli Hanisch. Set decorator Manfred Lohmar. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

In general release.

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