Monday, March 9, 2009

A critical reappraisal of the film Cabin Boy, fifteen years hence

Anxiety kills theatrical release. I figure that audiences are almost always willing to embrace risk, just as long as they are confident that they are in safe hands and have faith that the film maker is taking them somewhere interesting, and for good reason. I don't think that we even mind if the ride is sometimes a little bit bumpy and we occasionally touch down somewhere quite unexpected. It is this magical mystery element that makes a production like Chris Elliott's Cabin Boy so much more compelling than Woody Allen's Annie Hall, a production of undeniable quality with plenty of quality actors giving quality performances to create a quality film experience that quality critics all are informed upon receiving their union card they must love.

(My apologies to the theatre critic whose prose I stole and replaced with relevant references but, seriously dude -- your job is useless. I should know. I've done it.)

Audiences are happy to embrace risk – much more than most directors and producers give them credit for – but audiences don't like to be made to feel anxious. Watching Elliott cry "My christening wig! I've had in since infancy," as thugs toss his figurative innocence overboard makes the viewer cringe in sympathy and in esoteric understanding. Elliott has boarded the wrong ship in a comic conceit not wielded so very expertly since the writers of Three's Company wove their magic.

While Brian Doyle-Murray and Andy Richter shine, it is truly Chris Elliott that owns Cabin Boy. His unapologetic portrayal of a Fancy Lad gathered no Oscar nominations, garnered no critical praise and is not mentioned in the same breath as De Niro in Raging Bulll or Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.

Time will prove Cabin Boy as worthy as any Oscar nominated film.

As long as Time rolls marijuana cigarettes and secretly smokes them while Barb is out at a baby shower.

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