Touchstone Pictures // 1994 // 80 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Chief Justice Mike Jackson (Retired) // January 20th, 2003
"Oh man, oh man, do I hate them fancy lads!"
There is one thing you absolutely must know about Cabin Boy before you proceed with this review:
Cabin Boy is the stupidest movie you will ever see. Ever.
But please, keep reading, because it is worth seeing. I promise.
Cabin Boy's story, such as it is, revolves around "fancy lad" Nathaniel Mayweather, played with all the aplomb Chris Elliott can muster. He mistakes a fishing vessel for a themed cruise ship, thus falling into the clutches of a band of salty fisherman who make the stowaway serve as their cabin boy. During a storm, he guides the ship astray, setting them up for a series of mystical misadventures in the Devil's Cauldron.
It may be a stupid, stupid movie. Hell, it's so stupid it makes Dude, Where's My Car? look downright erudite. But Cabin Boy can also be very funny, depending on your sense of humor. Me, I find it very funny, though I will admit that it goes downhill after about the first 20 minutes or so. See, the funniest part of the movie comes about five minutes in, when David Letterman (under his film pseudonym, Earl Hofert) makes his cameo appearance. He's responsible for the quote in The Charge, as well as one of my all-time most quoted film lines -- "Would you like to buy a monkey?" Fortunately, as soon as his scene is over, it moves along to the next funniest part of the film, which is any scene featuring Andy Richter, making his film debut. He plays the dim-witted Kenny, who was the Filthy Whore's cabin boy until Nathaniel boarded. (Yes, that's the name of the ship -- the Filthy Whore.) Unfortunately, he's killed off pretty quickly, but he has the best dying words in the history of film.
That is, if you think "Tell the captain we're out of margarine" count as the best dying words in the history of film.
I love that sort of humor, the strange little non-sequitur moments that show the filmmakers weren't trying to make something that everyone would "get." I'm talking about things like the animated sequence of the Knights of the Round Table being chased by an animated beast in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only to be saved by the animator having a heart attack. Or the giant penguin Adam Sandler hallucinated about during his lowest moments in Billy Madison. Cabin Boy is full of moments like that; in fact, the movie is little more than a clothesline upon which moments like that hang like soiled boxers. For me, that's a cinematic treat akin to fried cheese.
Long-time DVD Verdict readers may remember that I had a near-campaign going on from the day I became the editor of the Verdict for Cabin Boy's release on DVD. So I'm sure you're wondering why, if this is such a stupid (though funny) movie, why did I want it so badly? Two reasons. One, a friend once said that Cabin Boy was the ultimate test of a relationship. If you could find a woman who would watch it with you, from beginning to end, without rolling her eyes, then she was a keeper. A movie with that kind of power should be available on DVD, period. Two, I'm a rabid, nerdy, obsessive fanboy of Tim Burton. Yes, that Tim Burton. The guy who directed fine films like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and Sleepy Hollow. No, he didn't direct Cabin Boy. That chore fell to Adam Resnick, its writer, and it's the only film he's directed to date, though he has had two other scripts filmed -- Lucky Numbers and Death to Smoochy. I hope he's found a more lucrative career in the adventurous world of chicken farming. Apparently, the script was offered to Tim Burton to direct. He liked it, but not enough to direct, so he produced it along with his then-producing partner Denise Di Novi. As a Burton completist, I had to see Cabin Boy brought to DVD. Maybe next I campaign for Luau...
...yes, Tim Burton directed a movie named Luau.
Sometimes the DVD gods smile on the unlikeliest of films. Cabin Boy somehow managed to garner a very nice, though bare-bones, DVD presentation. Video is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. It's a very clean transfer, with no edge enhancement or digital artifacts, and only occasional dust motes and some washed-out colors to mar the image. I won't mention that its average video bitrate would put some Superbit discs to shame. Audio is a serviceable 2.0 surround track, in English only. The surrounds are put to good use in several scenes, though overall the presentation is very forward-centric. There are no extras. For shame!
Cabin Boy DVD: $9.99
Amount you could've made working at federal minimum wage instead of watching Cabin Boy: $6.87
Look on your friend's face when they see Cabin Boy in your DVD collection: Priceless
See it for Letterman's cameo. See it for the half-man, half-shark. See it for the big fatass floating cupcake that spits tobacco. Come on, you owe it to yourself to experience Cabin Boy in all its idiotic digital glory. What were you going to buy instead? A monkey?
Cabin Boy is guilty of a great many things, but the Judge would feel like a drunken, abusive grandfather if he didn't let it go.
Review content copyright © 2003 Mike Jackson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Golden Gavel 2002 Nominee
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13