Cabin Boy

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Cabin Boy Movie Poster Image
Weird comedy-fantasy cult classic with language, innuendo.
  • PG-13
  • 1994
  • 80 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The hero learns not to be selfish and learns how to belong to a family, although he eventually abandons his own father to do so. He overcomes challenges and triumphs over the odds. He rarely does anything with sincerity, however, and his smirky cynicism always comes through. The story comes out well, but it's not exactly a journey to be imitated.

Positive Role Models

The hero, Nathanial Mayweather, eventually learns some good lessons; he becomes less selfish and learns bravery and empathy, but the tone of the movie is so bizarre and dark that it's hard to argue for him as a role model. Even after he learns these things, he's still capable of his former behavior.


Mild violence overall, though one character dies after falling overboard into the ocean, and there are humorous threats and attempts to kill the hero. The hero fights with a giant and stabs him with a pen. A woman punches the hero in the face. We get some other slapstick-type violence, such as characters getting bonked on the head. The movie also has some images that are potentially demeaning toward women, such as the hero riding, standing, on the main female character's back while she swims.


Heavy sexual innuendo, but no nudity. The fishermen sing a song about getting their "pipes cleaned." The hero lusts after the main female character when she appears, swimming by in her bathing suit. He flirts with her and kisses her. In one sequence, the hero visits a mystical woman who "makes him a man" by "cleaning his pipes." Their actions are heavily inferred, but not shown or directly referenced.


The movie is rated PG-13 and is thereby only allowed one use of "f--k," but language is very strong nonetheless. Words include many uses of "s--t," "bastard," "penis," "ass," "Goddamn," "hell," "pecker," "piss," "son of a bitch," "whore," and exclamatory references to "Christ." There are also several mentions of "clean my pipes," which is a sexual reference.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The fishermen are rollicking drunks, though their antics are always played for humor, and the act of drinking is rarely shown. The captain smokes a nasty little cigar and a pipe. One character spits tobacco juice. The heroine smokes a cigarette in one scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this1994 comedy with fantasy touches contains fairly strong language, including many uses of "s--t" and one use of "f--k." There is some slapstick violence, as well as death. Characters think about sex often, although nothing is ever shown or mentioned outright (there's plenty of innuendo). Characters are also depicted as drunk, though rarely seen drinking, and characters smoke. The movie is a universally loathed flop, although in some quarters it may have the potential to be a cult classic; the humor is so off-kilter and weird that viewers with an open mind and/or a warped sense of humor will love it.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymatthewc December 13, 2017

A funny comedy that kids will not understand

Parents need to know that there is some language, a few sexual references (many will go right over kids' heads) and some farcial violence. The movie does h... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Nathanial Mayweather (Chris Elliott) is a spoiled, educated "fancy lad," who is destined for a life of ease and luxury. Unfortunately, after graduating, he is waylaid on his way to his ship and accidentally boards a rundown fishing vessel called "The Filthy Whore." The ship's captain and crew can't stand Nathanial and try many ways to deal with him, both putting him to work and attempting to get rid of him. He tries to detour the ship to Hawaii but ends up in a mystical region called "Hell's Bucket" where strange things begin happening. Meanwhile, a Guinness Book distance swimmer (Melora Walters) also boards the ship, and Nathanial begins to learn to be a man at last. But is it too late? Look for David Letterman in a silly cameo.

Is it any good?

This universally loathed flop may have the makings of a cult classic, although at the moment it's more of a guilty pleasure; no one wants to admit that they like it. Star and co-writer Chris Elliott had come from Saturday Night Live and David Letterman as well as his own short-lived cult TV show Get a Life, but nothing could have prepared audiences for this weird, fantastical adventure with strange visuals and off-kilter rhythms. (Tim Burton was a producer and it definitely seems to have his touch.)

Elliott plays a distinctly unlikable character, although none of the other characters have much in the way of redeeming qualities either. Yet, this deliberately provocative approach has its benefits. The humor is so decidedly weird and unexpected that open-minded viewers may find themselves amused at any given moment. It might help if you were already aware of Elliott's deliberately annoying comic persona, or if you were a fan of cult actors like Brion James, James Gammon, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Russ Tamblyn.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Nathanial's character. Why is he so selfish? Why would a life of privilege make someone turn out like that? What does he learn over the course of the movie?

  • The fishermen drink and smoke a great deal. Is their behavior funnier because of this? Why are drugs and alcohol sometimes used as comedic devices?

  • This movie was a commercial and critical flop when it opened in 1994. Has the movie aged well? What were some things people didn't like about it? Does it have any redeeming qualities? Is it funny? Why?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

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