Awfully Good: Going Overboard

Before Adam Sandler was starring in bastions of quality like THAT'S MY BOY and Awfully Good "favorite" JACK AND JILL, he was just a young comedian making terrible, terrible movies.

Going Overboard (1989)

Director:Valerie Breiman
Stars: Adam Sandler, Billy Zane, Billy Bob Thornton

Is there a plot?

"Adam Sandler is a cruise ship waiter fishing for laughs. But somewhere between seasickness and murder, this killer comic discovers the power of laughter."

^ This is the actual narration from the trailer.

What's the damage?

Have you ever finished watching a movie and had absolutely zero idea how to describe it to anyone else? Usually it's something heavy like PRIMER or THE FOUNTAIN, but this might be the first time I'm at a loss for words about a comedy. And not in a good way.

I'm guessing "dressed like a woman trying not to get date raped by Al Pacino" didn't cross your mind.

Sure, this was Adam Sandler's first movie and clearly he was barely in his 20s when he made it. But that in no way explains how bizarre, poorly executed and grossly unfunny GOING OVERBOARD is. It's almost impressive how terrible it turned out, because even with my expectations tempered, I still barely survived the thing.

I'd be in a straightjacket too if I was responsible for JUST GO WITH IT.

Sandler plays Shecky Moskowitz, a comedian moonlighting as a waiter on a cruise ship. He takes his comedy very seriously and loathes the boat's professional stand up comic, whose act is comprised of f-bombs and fart jokes. But I don't want to make it sound like Sandler is playing an actual character because he's not. He's playing Adam Sandler. How do I know this? Because "Shecky" spends the entire movie talking to the camera about how it's a movie. When we first meet him, he automatically starts apologizing for it being a “no budget flick” and admitting they only made it because they had access to the boat. Sandler continues to break the fourth wall so much that it becomes more of a reality show than a feature film. But GOING OVERBOARD is still definitely an Adam Sandler movie because somebody drinks bird shit in the first five minutes.

Movies that have better scripts than this one.

On the rare occasion Sandler isn't mugging for the camera and there's actual story taking place, it's still nothing but non-sequiturs used to waste screentime. There's people breaking in to show tunes for no reason, countless dream sequences that make no sense (i.e. a boxing match between two comics where their jokes are the "punches"), even an entire scene between a rock star and his agent that Sandler proudly declares “has nothing to do with this movie. We just threw it in for a little variety.” And because the cruise they were on just happened to be housing the Miss Universe pageant that year, you're also subjected to constant talking head interviews with stupid beauty queens and random montages of beautiful women. (Okay, maybe that part's not so bad.) At first all the weirdness is unintentionally amusing in a "WTF?" sort of way, but by the end of the first hour you're gasping for the sweet release of death. I really don’t know if someone actually wrote all this down ahead of time, or if Sandler and crew got on the ship and were like "Okay, what do we do today?"

This seems like a fair representation of Jamaica.

And the failures are not just creative! GOING OVERBOARD even blows on a technical level, looking more like a home movie than an actual film. In fact, the camera crew forgot to bring a box of lenses on the ship, so the director of photography was forced to shoot with the wrong equipment. You can tell when certain shots are framed bizarrely or have weird borders surrounding the edges. (According to IMDB, the cinematographer now works as a driver on low-budget horror flicks. Makes sense.)

Why yes, that is Adam Sandler groping imaginary breasts while Billy Zane dresses like Neptune, God of the Sea, behind him.

So who exactly would be crazy enough to join Adam Sandler on this cinematic Titanic? You'd be surprised! You get Billy Bob Thornton as an asshole heckler, Billy Zane (!) as the mythical Neptune, King of the Sea (!!), comedy legend Milton Berle as himself, DETROIT ROCK CITY director Adam Rifkin and BATTLESHIP director Peter Berg as the aforementioned rock star and agent, as well as Sandler's future costar Allen Covert and director Steve Brill. Hell, even Lars from HEAVY WEIGHTS turns up as Shecky's best friend!

Adam Sandler and Allen Covert's earlier collaborations were much more existential.

But even Billy Zane dressed as a merman cannot top the bizarre subplot starring ROCKY's Burt Young as real life Panamanian war criminal General Noriega. Let me see if I can wrap my head around this enough to explain. GOING OVERBOARD opens with Burt Young looking at the camera and saying "Eat me." Except he's not talking to his agent, he's reading the titles of porn movies, one of which ends up being "The Unsinkable Shecky Moskowitz". He puts it in and GOING OVERBOARD begins. Part way through the movie, one of the beauty pageant contestants says in an interview that General Noriega's head looks like a pizza, at which point the film cuts back to Burt Young who is furious about being insulted. He calls in two of his bumbling henchmen and dispatches them to kill the girl…inside the movie. It's like an even worse version of LAST ACTION HERO.

This is what happens when you let a 22 year old write his own movie.

So the terrorists, sent by the man watching the movie, arrive to take the ship hostage and kill Miss Australia. It is here that Adam Sandler remembers something that Milton Berle and King Neptune both told him—there's nothing more important in the world than the power of laughter. So he uses his comedy to save the day and convince the terrorists to become comedians themselves, prompting Noriega (still watching the movie) to shoot his TV. Sandler recaps the entire movie for the audience, before Billy Zane's Neptune returns with his hot daughter for Adam Sandler to make out with. The film then ends with a freeze frame of a middle finger.

Dear Movie,
Signed, the Audience.

GOING OVERBOARD is so bad that it’s a complete and utter miracle Adam Sandler got any work after this, let alone went on to become a worldwide comedy superstar. As terrible as it is, I still believe that every man, woman and child should be exposed to it, just so you know how truly bad it can get. You’ll actually appreciate JACK AND JILL after this.

"Best" Line

Terrible jokes, f-bombs and Adam Sandler getting punched in the face.

"Best" Parts

1) These people are in this movie: Billy Bob Thornton, Milton Berle, ROCKY's Burt Young and Billy Zane as Neptune, King of the Sea.

2) Adam Sandler talking to the camera and apologizing for the movie, random show tunes and a bikini-filled dream sequence.

3) The film's original trailer actually sounds just like one of South Park's joke trailers that they use to make fun of Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider movies.

Nudity Watch

Sorry, it's swimsuits all the way here.


Pee your pants and be cool like Miles Davis! Buy this movie here!

Play Along at Home!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Sandler says hi the camera
  • There's an appearance by a famous person (or someone you recognize)
  • Dickie Diamond farts or doesn’t care
  • Someone sings “I Want to Slap Your Cat”
  • People happen to have funeral attire on a cruise ship
  • Gun sounds are made when no gun is fired

Double shot if:


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Source: Digital Dorm
Tags: awfully good



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