boat trip (2003)


director: mort nathan

cuba gooding jr., horatio sanz, roselyn sanchez

Watching Cuba Gooding Jr. dance alone to “I Feel Good” by James Brown in the first scene of Boat Trip reminds us that, as an actor, Gooding is mostly used as a human special effect. He oozes good-natured charisma and moves with astounding self-confidence, and one day someone is going to make a movie where he’ll be allowed to steal every scene with the collusion of a sympathetic director or script.

Boat Trip isn’t that film. Gooding plays Jerry, a romantic sad sack dumped by his girlfriend, whose bonehead buddy (Horatio Sanz) convinces him to go on a singles cruise. Sanz picks a fight with his travel agent, however, who books them on a gay cruise - laffs, we’re assured, must inevitably ensue.

Once you’ve watched the parade of drag queens and leathermen, and have battened down the hatches for a bumpy voyage over stormy seas of stereotypes, your soul will sink with the appearance of the Swedish Suntanning Team, stranded on the high seas and rescued along with their dykey schoolmarm trainer. Any resemblance to an episode of "The Man Show" is, I’m sure, coincidental.

While Gooding falls for the ship’s dance teacher (Roselyn Sanchez), Sanz has his tolerance tested when he becomes poker buddies with a group of passengers, and becomes the object of lust for a swishy Brit played with relish by none other than Roger Moore, who allows us - finally - to glimpse the prototype of a gay James Bond.

For brief moments, there’s something subversive about Boat Trip, a film targeted at a lowbrow Maxim sort of demographic, and which delights in prodding at that magazine’s overaccessorized version of machismo, a preening kind of masculinity that was, after all, stolen wholesale from gay culture.

Most of the time, though, it’s a crude, laughless nudge in the ribs that only comes to life when Sanz becomes convinced that he’s gay, or when Gooding dresses up in full Pride Day drag queen get-up for the cruise talent show to get close to Sanchez. Only then does the movie suddenly become light on its feet, and that’s got to make you wonder.