Welcome to the inaugural edition of LACKLUSTER VIDEO, a retrospective review of B- and Z-grade cinematic stinkers, infamous bombs and forgotten trash. I’ll also review the occasional underrated classic and obscure gem, just to prove I’m not a hate-filled troll. My name is Bo Swidersky and I’ll be your guide down the murky depths of movie mediocrity. I love terrible movies. And I love forcing other people to watch them. Most would call that sadistic, but I call it… yeah, I guess it is pretty sadistic.
Speaking of sadism, legendary director Stanley Kubrick reportedly watched any and every film he could get his hands on – good or bad, especially the bad as they served as a textbook case of what not to do. In that case, it’s time to break out the binders and Bics (and maybe a life preserver) as we wallow through the first LACKLUSTER VIDEO – GOING OVERBOARD.
The only redeeming quality of Going Overboard AKA Babes Ahoy is that it bears the distinction of being Adam Sandler’s first starring role. Take that as you will.
The film opens with a shot of Burt Young. Very promising thus far. Having worked with such cinematic legends as Roman Polanski (in Chinatown), Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in America) and Sylvester Stallone (all six Rocky movies), the inclusion of Young this early on in the movie suggests a promise of quality filmmaking of the highest order. A promise that’s immediately broken as soon as Young opens his mouth to utter the first spoken words of the film: “Eat me.”
Young’s yet-unnamed character is reading off titles from his stack of porn tapes. Among the pile of such uncreative and un-laugh-inducing porn titles as Blonds Prefer Cucumbers and Rub Me Raw, Young chances upon a tape titled The Unsinkable Schecky Moskowitz.
Sandler is either making a truly disturbing “funny face” or a truly disturbing “o-face”. Either way, we’re destined for viewing of the “once seen, cannot be unseen” variety.
The viewer is led to believe this was the original title of Going Overboard as Young’s character whimsically repeats “The Unsinkable Schecky Moskowitz” at least six or seven times too many while loading the tape of what he expects to be gay porn in his VCR. This title change is more obvious during the “film-within-a-film’s” calypso-heavy opening credits featuring an animated stand-up comic Sandler reading off the credits via comic bubbles. After a comic bubble reading “Starring Adam Sandler as…”, there is a jarring cut to the title Going Overboard against a black background, not the brick wall background of animated Sandler’s comedy club. The film then inexplicably cuts back to animated Sandler for the remainder of the opening credits. “Adam Sandler as Going Overboard”?!
So is Going Overboard the name of Sandler’s character, not Schecky Moskowitz? Or is it that Sandler’s character “goes overboard” from a boat at some point in the movie? Do we ever see him in those ridiculous water wings he’s wearing in the poster? The answer to all three questions is ‘No’. Confused? Don’t worry, either your brain will shut off or you’ll just stop caring enough to ignore the innumerable plot and logic holes. My money’s on the latter.
For the record, Adam Sandler’s character is called Schecky Moskowitz, a name so stereotypically Jewish they probably got it from a Nazi-produced Anti-Semitic film from the early 1940s. I’m guessing the filmmakers assumed the hero would be more funny if he was Jewish. Why didn’t they just go “full Jew” and call him “Kikey Jewsteinwitzman”?
Schecky is a sailor-suit-wearing cruise ship cocktail waiter who dreams of being the ship’s resident standup comedian. But his dreams are dashed when the villainous speedo-donning douchebag Dickie Diamond (Scott LaRose) is hired instead. Schecky’s dreams are also dashed by the fact that his routine is grimace-inducingly unfunny.
Example: “There’s this girl I met, I do everything she asks me to. So I asked her how attractive I was on a scale of 1 to 10. And she said ‘You’re an 8.’ So I pissed on her shoes! Urinate!” Unfortunately there’s a lot more where that came from. A lot more.
Diamond’s equally-unfunny standup act revolves around incest, constant profanity, and giving people the middle finger. Usually in that order. Schecky resents that people actually laugh at Diamond’s histrionics and that scantily clad women flock to him. This does nothing to help Schecky’s fragile self-esteem. I swear he spends over half the movie dwelling on his loneliness and lack of decent stand-up material. I do enough of that in my own life. The other half of Sandler’s screen time is spent winking at the camera, waggling his eyebrows, and flapping his arms like a chicken.
Dickie Diamond’s hackneyed routine torments Schecky even in his dreams. In one particularly vivid dream sequence, Diamond insults Schecky in a mental institution cell while a creepy robotic beauty plays rim shots. This scene features the only almost-laugh of the entire film, “You wearing a straight-jacket? Or in your case, a homo-jacket!” I didn’t say it was funny; it’s just the best of the dreck.
“You’ve got an apple in your mouth. Where’s William Tell when you need him?” Please, please, make the bad jokes stop!
Serving as Schecky’s sidekick is his “best pal”, the lip-gloss wearing, “womanizing”, cross-dressing Bob (Tom Hodges). Bob is his “pal” in the same way 1960s Superman was Jimmy Olsen’s “pal”. Sure, Supes would save him from a burning building, but come time Olsen really needed him, like when he was trapped in Gorilla City and forced to take an ape-bride, the Man of Steel just couldn’t be bothered. And Bob just can’t be bothered to help Schecky. He thinks Diamond’s material is “some really funny shit” and gives Schecky a three-minute rant on how stand-up comedy is “absolutely the most degrading thing a human being can put himself through.” Well, second most degrading after a dream sequence where Bob appears as Schecky’s mother. So terrifying that the actor got two credits just in case we couldn’t tell if it was Tom Hodges or Tyler Perry in white-face.
Bob “motivates” Schecky with a friendly bitch slap.
Schecky frequently breaks the fourth wall à la Zack Morris in “Saved by the Bell” to address the camera on the film’s events. So the film-within-a-film is self-aware, but not in a clever Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles kinda way. More in the lazy first-time screenwriter kinda way. In the first such incident, Schecky enthusiastically warns us that this story is “based entirely around the fact that we had access to this nice big boat here and a lot of… beauty pageant girls. Unbelievably-beautiful, very clean women.” Now that we’ve begun to suspect an outbreak of Chlamydia on the ship, Schecky further warns us “This is a no-budget flick, not a low budget.” He then illustrates this by making the camera shake to “simulate” an earthquake. This is the only time the film uses its “no-budget” for “comedic effect”.
Likewise the movie fails to take full advantage of its boatful of beauty pageant contestants. (Heh, take advantage!) Instead we get montage after yawn-inspiring montage of bikini clad beauties carrying out such exciting PG-rated tasks as sitting, standing, lying down, and, if we’re lucky, walking. I was expecting something more along the lines of that “Satisfaction” music video with those sweaty swimsuit models using power tools. Man, that’s an awesome video! But alas, these Miss Universe contestants most likely knew a turd when they smelled one and wanted as little participation in this poopfest as possible.
The meandering plot finally starts moving along when an interviewer asks Miss Australia (not the actual Miss Australia, but “actress” Liza Collins Zane) her “thoughts” on “Politics”. Miss Aussie goes on a laughless five-minute rant about Panamanian dictator General Noriega, criticizing his foul odor and his “pizza face.” By an incredibly far-fetched twist of fate and bad screenwriting, it turns out that Burt Young’s character is none other than Noriega himself. After calling Miss Australia “worthless leftover kangaroo vomit,” the actor I formerly admired breaks into a Shatner-esque spoken word song, “It’s a Sad, Sad World When Your Head Looks Like a Pizza”. Noriega then hires two clueless Middle Eastern terrorists to attack the cruise ship and assassinate the woman on his TV screen.
But how can they kill her when she’s a fictional character in a movie on VHS? Mel Brooks would have found a genius post-modern way around this quandary. Remember that scene in Space Balls when Rick Moranis watches himself watching Space Balls on VHS? Instead of such comedic brilliance, we must endure three minutes of the terrorist buffoons pointing out this plot hole over and over and over again in annoying broken English. These assassins, credited as “Terrorist Without Shirt” and “Terrorist With Mustache” (I’m assuming they only had enough wardrobe for one terrorist) are about as funny as watching Borat portrayed by anyone not named Sacha Baron Cohen.
Meanwhile, Dickie Diamond somehow manages to lock himself in a washroom, even though the locking mechanism is clearly shown to be on his side of the door (a conceit put to much greater use in National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze 2: College @ Sea). Of course he’s immediately presumed dead. What follows is a cringe-inducingly bad funeral scene involving a nose-picking priest. With that douche Dickie out of the way, it’s now Schecky’s time to take the mic. But he’s still whiny and unsure of himself.
Luckily Billy Zane crawls onboard the ship dressed in a fake beard and a discarded short-cut glitter dress that fails to hide his undies. Claiming to be King Neptune, God of the Sea, he gives our hero a half-hearted, probably improvised pep-talk on the power of laughter.
Billy Zane was then-husband of Liza Collins Zane. As far as I know, they’re not cousins or siblings.
And does this pep-talk pay off ? Absolutely… not! In what’s the closest thing this film has to an awesome moment, Schecky is heckled off the stage by none other than the always-angry Billy Bob Thornton:
Schecky: What do you do for a living?
Billy Bob: I’m a construction worker.
Schecky: Uhh…what do you… construct?
Billy Bob: I construct buildings. What the fuck else would I construct?”
Unfortunately Schecky’s terrible act is “saved” when vacationing rocker and face herpes-sufferer Croaky Croaker (Adam Rifkin, who also plays Miss Spain) crashes the stage to perform his #1 smash “hit”, “I Wanna Slap Your Cat.” This bland repetitive droning drags on for the four longest minutes of my life!
Does Schecky gain the confidence to give stand-up a second chance? Does Miss Australia get her comeuppance? Does anyone really care? Clearly not the filmmakers.
This disasterpiece meets its long overdue and continuity error-ridden climax with Bob saving Miss Australia and Schecky teaching the terrorists to be “comedians”. Their jokes are even worse than Schecky and Dickie Diamond’s material combined:
Terrorist Without Shirt: What is invisible and smells like carrots? It’s little teeny bunny fart!”
I personally liked them better when they were gunning down innocent civilians.
When Diamond finally breaks out of his washroom cell, he’s met by an angry, pro-Schecky crowd, shouting such memorable lines as “Hey, that’s the dead guy!”, “Yeah, that’s the dead comedian!” and “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be dead?” Schecky’s new fans certainly think so, as the reformed terrorists throw him overboard to his watery grave. I take it they won’t be giving him a second funeral.
I’ve had more than enough by this point. And so has the villainous Noriega, who has yet to be brought to justice. In the end he’s made out to be the hero – nay, savior – as he puts the film and the audience out of its misery by shooting the TV. But of course he doesn’t actually shoot the TV. We see a shot of him pointing a gun at the screen, and then the screen goes black as we hear a sound library gun shot effect. This is a no-budget film after all.
Thank God, it’s over.
But wait – Schecky shows up to give us a most-unwanted recap. Hey, doesn’t this break the narrative structure of a film-within-a-film? By this point I’ve realized the writers of this film wouldn’t know a framing narrative from a picture frame. The film finally ends as King Neptune pimps out his sexy daughter SLIMEY (all in caps because Neptune only says her name by YELLING IT) to Schecky. I suspect this love interest was tacked on so we wouldn’t question Schecky’s sexual orientation. After all he does spend most of the movie in a sailor suit. And Bob seems to be always leaning on Schecky’s back.
The infamous “Slumber Party” scene where Schecky and Bob thumb wrestle, decide it’s cool to wear pink shirts, and break out into a musical number. Sandler’s pained expression matches my own.)
Much of the blame for this bomb could easily be shouldered on first-time writer-director Valerie Breiman (who also plays the smokin’ hot Bambi). However, as the dance-happy end credits reveal, Sandler wrote “Additional Stand-up Material.” I shudder to consider which of the stinkers he’s responsible for. (My money’s on the ‘homo-jacket’ line.)
This gives me serious concern for the quality of stand-up material Sandler is writing for his upcoming film, the stand-up comedian-centric Funny People. Sure, Judd Apatow is directing it and Sandler’s material has improved significantly. But you still can’t argue with the fact that 100% of Sandler’s previous films about stand-up comedians (i.e. this movie) have been complete disasterpieces.
Going Overboard remains one of those pre-fame secret shames that superstars like to deny the existence of, like that phone sex ad with Lost actress Evangeline Lilly or that porno Stallone made in the early ‘70s. If you hate Adam Sandler movies, you’ll hate this movie. If you like Adam Sandler movies (like me), you’ll hate it even more.
My Rating: 0 out of 5 life preservers. This corpse is dead in the water.
Bonus Feature: Where Are They Now?
Sure we know how Adam Sandler miraculously managed to parlay this stinker into a role on SNL, numerous successful films, and his own production company. But what about the other Going Overboard survivors (if any)?
Peter Berg, who played Croaky Croaker’s manager, went on to direct the critically acclaimed film The Kingdom and the Will Smith vehicle Hancock. He is currently directing a remake of David Lynch’s Dune.
Allen Covert played the bartender who always praised Schecky’s material. He went on to appear in every subsequent Adam Sandler film and Happy Madison production. He starred in 2006’s Grandma’s Boy. It pays to kiss ass.
Steven Brill (the nose-picking priest) went on to write all three Mighty Ducks films and direct the fat camp comedy classic Heavyweights.
Billy Zane (King Neptune) went on to do another cruise ship movie called Titanic. Despite its superior direction and much larger budget, the Hair & Make-up department still managed to make him look like a drag queen.
Scott LaRose (Dickie Diamond) went on to appear in the spoof film Plump Fiction and the direct-to-video Blair Bitch Project Starring Linda Blair.
Adam Rifkin (Croaky Croaker) went on to pen the screenplays to Mousehunt, Small Soldiers, and Underdog. He also directed The Invisible Sex Maniac, Psycho Cop Returns, and Detroit Rock City.
Valerie Breiman went on to direct Bikini Squad and an episode of the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” TV series titled, “Honey, We’re Stuck in the 70s.” According to her IMDb pic, she’s still smokin’ hot.
Tom Hodges (Bob) went on to play Asshole #3 in I Love You, Please Don’t Touch Me! He also directed the 2004 film Stunt C*cks.
And Billy Bob Thornton went on to win an Oscar and bang Tomb Raider.