Sunday, 14 August 2016



Even with my colossally Cornish tin-mine-sized tin ear for comedy, I know the landscape of comedic offence changes over time. There are things you can get away with now that you couldn't then, and there are things you could get away with then that you really can't now. It's a bizarre thing that modern films can push the grossout level to ever more repulsive and puerile depths (Grimsby and The Interview being recent examples) but the depiction of black or gay characters has switched the other way: those casually negative stereotypes that were okay in the 1970s are liable to get you sued and/or fired now. That's clearly not a bad thing: we've clearly grown up to a part where we just don't go for easy laughs about sexuality or skin colour, and it's now something of a surprise when we see them in sitcoms from forty years past, even when the jokes are actually on the simple-minded bigots making them (as with Alf Garnett).

But surely, by 2002 we'd reached some position of enlightenment regarding "the gays"? Surely by that point there'd been a studio memo saying to stop doing that screaming camp queen character: it's disrespectful and demeaning and it's no longer funny (assuming of course that it ever was)? Stomping its way blindfold through the minefield of political correctness while wearing magnetic hobnail boots, Boat Trip has zero laughs, zero chuckles, and might at best rack up nearly two smiles if it was possibly to actually smile with your jaw sagging open.

Because of an altercation with the travel agent, two straight guys (Cuba Gooding Jr, who should know better, and Horatio Sanz, who is off Saturday Night Live and so probably doesn't) are maliciously booked onto an all-gay cruise. While Gooding's character has to pretend to be gay because he's fallen in love with the dance instructor (the only woman on board) and she's really looking for a Gay Best Friend, Sanz's character is a repulsive lech whose dreams suddenly come true when the ship picks up a lifeboat full of Scandinavian bikini models, because this film was clearly written by a thirteen-year-old boy. Will he ever manage to finally obtain actual congress with an actual woman? And will Gooding Jr extricate himself from his web of deceit that leads to him performing I'm Coming Out in a full-on gay cabaret sequence wearing a shiny gold vest, a thong and a headdress that's taller than he is?

Meanwhile none other than the mighty and noble Sir Roger Moore is prowling the ship, delivering his trademark eyebrow-raisers in his trademark manner (sample, at breakfast: "Would you like to...lick my sausage?") but directed at the guys this time, because it's apparently funny in an ironic post-Bond way, and it's a paid luxury holiday for the great man so what the hell. Lin Shaye is also on board as the bikini squad's fearsome coach, basically playing her as Rosa Klebb. In the midst of all this hilarity (for want of a better word, and there are several) it's a parade of cross-dressing, hysterical queens, banana fellating and assless chaps. If it hadn't already been taken they could have called it Carry On Cruising.

Is it offensive? Personally I'm not sure how much offence I should take on behalf of others, but if others did take offence at it I can certainly see why. I don't think it's being actively malicious and hateful, though; I suspect it's borne of stupidity rather than genuine hate. Midway through, the film suddenly feels the need to drop in a serious bit of character discovery as Sanz's horny imbecile realises that "hey, homosexuals are people too...", but then, having done what it thinks to be enough of the decent thing, hurriedly cuts back to references to I Will Survive and Liza With A Z and lots of buff men behaving like Richard Littlejohn's sweatiest nightmares. What's baffling isn't that Boat Trip is obviously a staggeringly bad idea that somehow got the greenlight, but that a large number of people, at least some of whom aren't halfwits, committed to spending several months refining it, rehearsing it, shooting it and putting it all together. Shocking in all the wrong ways, amusing in no way at all, and thoroughly ill-advised, but Sir James Bond suddenly dropping the second rudest of the rude words did make me reach for the rewind button.