The Boatniks Reviews

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½ November 10, 2009
With its unusual coastguard-gone-wacky premise and a solid cast of comic talent that includes Phil Silvers, Don Ameche and Normal Fell, 1970's "The Boatniks" delivers exactly the sort of gentle, goofy fun that it sets out to, though it also never really rises above the level of "competent". The tv-ready direction of Disney gun-for-hire Norman Tokar gives the proceedings a pleasant if unremarkable polish, while Arthur Julian's script, which revolves around a hapless ensign's (Robert Morse) clumsy attempts to foil a trio of incompetent jewel thieves while simultaneously romancing a local beauty (Stefanie Powers), dishes out plenty of clever gags but also meanders along at an unnecessarily lackadaisical pace (there's no particular reason this movie needed to be 100 minutes long). While much of the comedy is affable, and on a few occasions even laugh-out-loud funny, there's nothing particularly memorable here either... there are no major comic innovations or jaw-dropping set-pieces to be had (and even the potentially whimsical submarine vs. rowboat chase at the end feels somewhat lackluster). Though hardly a classic, "The Boatniks" is enjoyable enough in its own good-natured if unexceptional way.
½ October 2, 2009
This film was a rare flop for Disney. Typical for the flailing movie industry, that sought to revitalize movie-archetypes from earlier in the decade, this movie was a B movie from it's inception. The plot is fairly typical, involving criminals who lose stolen jewels under the water, and repeatedly try to retrieve it. The leads are Disney regulars, cast as Frankie & Annette knock-offs. Bad music, clearly not indicative of the time, makes this film seem like a relic. The title is a play on word from the word Beatniks, and that's about as far as the association with any subculture actually goes.
About a decade ago, Mystery Science Theater 3000 did an episode featuring this movie, and it remains the only Disney film that was made fun of during the series' run. Unoriginal characters surround a plot that could have been written by a 7-year-old.
To offer contrast, in the same year, Fox released Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which was a loosely strung together group of stories surrounding a small town music group, following success at a homecoming dance, and rich in surreal social commentary, going on to achieve cult status. What's more, Dolls was shot for one million dollars, and the Boatniks probably cost more, and did worse.
Other films released from this year include MASH, Love Story, Patton, The Aristocats (another Disney movie that has had little staying power), Tora!Tora!Tora!, Catch 22, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Schwarzenegger's infamous Hercules in New York, the Out of Towners, the Owl and the Pussycat, Two Mules for Sister Sara, and Woodstock.
The Boatniks is irrelevant, lacks charm, sophistication, or humor apart from poorly staged slapstick, and remains a mark of shame for Disney.
It's almost as if the Disney execs sat down, and decided that instead of going for something hard and substantial, like many of the other struggling studios opted for, they would go so soft and light that they barely had a movie.
If you spend any money in getting this film, you'll probably only want it for study as an example of how corporations can screw up a movie, or what not to do in comedy.
You could do better watching any of the films listed above, even if many of them have nothing to do with the events and societal changes of the time.
If you have to watch it, do so with a child, so that at least someone may watch the film without feeling disgusted, possibly even enjoying it.. though not likely.
In `72, this film was re-released as a double feature with the, much disliked for its racial overtones, Song of the South; Disney probably should have quit while they were ahead.
½ January 8, 2007
5.5/10. Typical silly Disney family film from that era, nonsense but fun. Nothing deep here, good for the whole family, adults and children included. Lights of sight gags, physical humor.
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