Unwatchable #26: “Going Overboard”Posted: September 17, 2010
When Adam Sandler’s latest comedy Grown Ups was released earlier this summer, it was largely derided as an essentially plotless (and pointless) paid vacation for him and his comedian pals. What many pundits didn’t realize is that Sandler had actually come full circle. I don’t think he talks about it much in interviews, but Sandler’s feature debut was, to quote IMDb, “shot entirely on a cruise ship going from New Orleans to Cancun.” Not only that, but this love boat was crammed to the rafters with beauty queens en route to the Miss Universe pageant, many of whom make bikini-clad appearances in the film. Not a bad first gig if you can get it, but as Steven Soderbergh once noted, having fun making a movie does not necessarily translate into making a good movie. (Quoth Soderbergh: “That shouldn’t matter. If that meant anything then Cannonball Run would be a great movie, because I’m sure it was fun to make.” Ironic words coming from the man who went on to make Ocean’s 12 and 13.)
In this case, I’m not even sure everyone involved with Going Overboard even knew they were making a movie; the whole thing looks more like a tax shelter than anything that should have ever been released in theaters (which may or may not have happened). The 1989 comedy begins on a topical note with General Manuel Noriega (Rocky’s brother-in-law Burt Young) sifting through a pile of porn VHS tapes. Among them he finds a tape labeled The Unsinkable Shecky Moskowitz, which savvy viewers will deduce was the original title of the movie they are watching. That this joke loses what meager laugh potential it once possessed when the title is changed to Going Overboard is something that perhaps should have been considered early in the planning stages, given the unlikelihood of a movie being released under the title The Unsinkable Shecky Moskowitz, but we’ll give the filmmakers a pass for the moment because, as we are about to learn, this is a very low-budget movie.
How do we know this? Shecky Moskowitz himself informs us, in the first of his many wall-breaking, Ferris Bueller-emulating addresses to the camera. As embodied by an unknown Adam Sandler…wait, can we just take a moment to savor the phrase “an unknown Adam Sandler”? I know a lot of people have forgiven the Sand-Man for his crimes against cinema since he delivered acclaimed performances in Punch-Drunk Love and (to a lesser extent) Funny People, but to that I say: “Really? We’re going to let him off that easily?” Because let’s remember, it’s not only the rancid comedies Sandler has starred in – you know, the likes of Little Nicky, Anger Management and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry – that he must bear responsibility for. He must also be held accountable for all the crap produced under the Happy Madison banner, which is to say: All the Rob Schneider! All the David Spade! Grandma’s Boy! Paul Blart Fucking Mall Cop! I’m a forgiving person (NOTE: not really), but Mr. Sandler still has a long way to go in my book.
Anyway, back to the piece of crap at hand (which you can actually watch in its entirety here – thanks, YouTube!). Shecky Moskowitz is a cruise ship waiter with dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian. Unfortunately, the ship is already equipped with comic Dickie Diamond (Scott LaRose), a scrawny, hairy-chested glob of grease whose hostile act is a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. Shecky tries to badger Dickie into letting him perform as his opening act, a proposal Dickie quite rudely (albeit sensibly) dismisses. Since Shecky is our ostensible rooting interest, you might be under the impression that he’s been working hard at his craft, honing a stand-up set to perfection in hopes of getting his big break. In fact, he has no routine, and barely has any jokes (“She told me ‘you’re an eight,’ so I pissed on her shoes. Urinate!”), so I guess we’re supposed to root for him just because he has show-biz ambitions. At one point Shecky addresses the camera again thusly: “Is it me? Do I have no idea what makes people laugh? Do I know nothing about the art of comedy?” To comment on this would be akin to shooting fish in a barrel full of already dead fish.
Meanwhile, General Noriega is still watching the movie in progress, in which Miss Australia at one point insults him out of the blue, prompting the despot to send two goons to whack her. (Yes, he’s sending underlings to kill someone in a movie he’s watching. Weird, huh?) This subplot becomes tiresome in a hurry, but fortunately there are several celebrity cameos to ease us through to the grand finale. Billy Zane makes a nearly amusing appearance as King Neptune, a then-unknown Billy Bob Thornton foreshadows Bad Santa as a profane heckler, Unwatchable commenter Adam Rifkin (director of #39, The Invisible Maniac) plays a rock star/walking STD, and most startling of all, Milton Berle appears as himself (mysteriously accompanied by a laugh track), offering Shecky a selection of jokes to perform. (Sample: “Her boobs were so small, she had to carry her nipples in her pocket.”) I can only assume the superannuated Uncle Miltie was under the impression he was guest-starring on an episode of The Love Boat.
At least Going Overboard is honestly lazy; the movie is continually apologizing for itself, from Sandler’s opening comments about the lack of budget to his shrugged introduction of a bikini montage. Legend has it (or at least, IMDb and Wikipedia both have it) that a box of camera equipment was left behind when the cruise ship set sail, and thus the cinematographer was forced to work with the wrong lenses. I find no reason to doubt this, and yet, I can’t say the movie really suffers from it. There’s not a single second of Going Overboard that would have been improved by the correct F-stop.
Previously on Unwatchable: