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Tuesday, April 29, 2003 02:44 pm

Movie Review - View From the Top, Boat Trip

View From the Top

That Donna Jensen (Gwyneth Paltrow), you've got to admit, she sure knows how to aim high. She longs to see the world and thinks that the only way to do it is to become a stewardess. Of course, anything would be an improvement after growing up in a trailer in Arizona with her ex-showgirl mother, even working for Sierra Airlines, a local outfit with five puddle-jumpers that requires her to dress like a Hooters waitress. (How ironically prescient this film proves to be, what with the eatery recently starting its own commuter flight service.) Then one day Donna sees the Martha Stewart of stewardesses, Sally Weston (Candice Bergen), being interviewed on television. Weston relates how serving in first-class changed her life. Suddenly, Donna knows where her destiny lies--in the front of the plane, serving complimentary drinks and fetching headphones for fat cats.

Donna's ups and downs are charted in Bruno Barreto's View From the Top, a movie that's been languishing in the Miramax film vault for over a year. It's easy to see why, as there's nothing distinctive or unique about this feature. Unassuming and bland, it recycles a common, predictable tale that isn't necessarily bad--it just suffers from being so familiar. A mentor left behind (Kelly Preston) as our heroine climbs to the top, a choice between career and love in the form of Mark Ruffalo, and a backstabbing "best friend" (Christina Applegate) are all plucked from the cliché barrel to fill out the script by Eric Wald.

Paltrow makes the film almost bearable, bringing a natural sense of naiveté to Donna that's endearing. We can't help but hope she achieves her modest dreams because the actress allows us to see the sincerity in the character's heart. Unfortunately, Mike Myers fails to engage the audience as an overzealous, bitter instructor whose dream of becoming a flight attendant was crushed because he has a lazy eye. His shameless mugging seems out of place in such a sweet film and his character proves to be more annoying than sympathetic. In the end, View From the Top proves to be an uneventful flight. It's coach from beginning to end.

(Running time 1:27; rated PG-13)
Grade C

Boat Trip

Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. has made no bones about the fact that quality parts have been hard for him to come by since his Oscar-winning turn in Jerry Maguire. Citing racism as a cause, he has been forced to appear in such stinkers as Chill Factor, Rat Race, and Snow Dogs. His latest career-killer, the hapless sex farce Boat Trip, is by the far the worst of the bunch and gives further credence to Gooding's complaint.

"Simplistic" is too kind a word for this film as it sports well-worn plot points, tired gags, and homosexual stereotypes that were passé 25 years ago. Gooding plays Jerry, whose best pal Nick (Horatio Sanz) has booked them on a cruise in order to help his pal get over losing rich bitch Felicia (Vivica A. Fox). But after offending their travel agent, they find themselves booked on a cruise filled with gay men. Obvious jokes and misunderstandings ensue as Jerry falls for comely dance instructor Gabriela (Roselyn Sanchez) but must pretend to be gay in order to earn her trust. Meanwhile Nick starts to think he might need to switch over to the other team.

How desperate is this film to get a laugh? It requires Gooding to take pratfalls into a swimming pool not once, not twice, but four times. This is high art compared to other sequences in which we are forced to witness a middle-aged woman practice oral sex on a baseball bat, see a passenger get a face full of random semen, and watch former James Bond, Roger Moore, act like a queen. Halfway through this voyage to nowhere I couldn't help but wonder "Where's a well-placed iceberg when you need it?" Truth be told, BoatTrip started to sink long before it even left port. Doomed to disaster, this movie should have been called Das Love Boot. Like a loyal captain, Gooding goes down with the ship.

(Running time 1:35; rated R)
Grade F

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