review for Cabin Boy on AllMovie

Cabin Boy (1994)
by Jason Buchanan review

Though detractors of Chris Elliott should be warned to maintain a safe distance from the film that offered him in his first leading fancy-lad role, those who can appreciate his bizarre, sometimes mean-spirited sense of humor are in for a treat if they're willing to give this film a chance. Critically disembowelled upon initial release and destined for cult status, this love-it-or-hate-it high-seas comedy is sure to entertain fans of Elliott's all-too-short-lived television series Get a Life. Utilizing the same off-kilter humor and outlandish dialogue that drew Get a Life such a loyal cult following, Elliott populates his otherworldly comedy with such absurd characters as a giant tobacco-chewing cupcake and a half-man/half-shark, all the while offering a protagonist who is neither endearing or sympathetic and salty crew of sea-faring rogues who take pleasure in humiliating him. Though it's often said that a film needs a protagonist who can win the affection of the audience, the absence of such a character is exactly what makes the humor in Cabin Boy so effective. With his snide comments and snippy attitude, the humor lies in the fact that the audience wants to see Elliott's self-important fancy-lad cut down to size and then some. Produced by Tim Burton and bearing his influence in its colorful and bizarre look, the film also possesses an endearingly synthetic visual scheme that lends it a notably surreal quality.