While Annemarie might have missed most ’90s movies that are now seen as classics, she sure didn’t miss Captain Ron. But you know who did? Brooke. That’s why this Martin Short-Kurt Russell comedy makes the list this week for Required Viewing.
Brooke, start us off. What did you think of this film? You said you knew nothing of Captain Ron, but now what do you think of him and his namesake movie? And of course, why do you think this made the list?
B: Look and listen, I’m not sure anyone outside of my dear sweet friends the Millers view Captain Ron as a “classic,” but there are a couple of Pauly Shore films to which I would assign the same label, so I’ll allow it. It is true that I had no idea this movie existed. When I first heard Captain Ron, I assumed it had something to do with sports or the army. Now that I know, the actual truth (nautical origins) makes much more sense. I have to confess, I enjoyed this picture a lot more than I thought I would — especially after the introduction of the titular Captain Ron.
Seeing mullet-ed out Kurt Russell with an eye patch gave me such Escape From NY/LA and Big Trouble In Little China vibes I could hardly stand it. Cause, controversial statement alert: I just don’t dig those movies. I’ve tried. They’re not for me. And that’s fine, but I was worried that a comedic Snake Plissken schtick was coming and I wasn’t there for it. Fortunately for yours truly, Captain Ron kind of lives in the space between Jack Sparrow and any Pauly Shore character of this era. He’s casually cool and occasionally good at the thing he’s meant to do. He’s a gruff, hard-partying hustler with a heart — it’s an archetype straight out of the ’90s and it took me right back to my youth. As did the fact that this plot centered around a well-intentioned-but-square dad trying to do a cool thing for his nuclear family and failing. I’m not sad that movies like this aren’t the dominant style anymore, but it is fun to witness something so of its time.
But here’s my favorite part. The thing I really liked about this movie the most is also the reason why I believe it landed on this list. Your husband-friend and my friend Justin wasn’t here for this watch session, but it almost felt as if he was because I could see the influence Captain Ron had on young Justin. Would watch again to hear him laugh heartily and channel Kurt Russell. Many is the time I’ve been able to trace a path from a certain movie to young AM to present day AM, but this was the first time I imagined young Justin so clearly and it was delightful.
Alright, are the other reasons this movie made the list? Why do you love it? And go ahead tell me where Martin Short ranks in the compendium of bumbling ’90s dads.
A: Fine, fine. I don’t know that Captain Ron is an actual classic. But you’re absolutely correct that it’s top-notch ’90s fun. Remember when Martin Short was a HUGE movie star? I don’t know if he does, either, but this film came out at a time during which I imagine his fame and fortunes were pretty high. And that’s part of why I like this movie. It seems like everyone is genuinely having a good time, even if Short’s character decidedly has less and less fun over the course of the story.
The first time I saw this film, I saw only the last 5 minutes, in which the Harvey family says goodbye to Ron and he disappears into a crowd in Miami. Years passed, and I never saw the whole thing, until my sister and I randomly caught it on TV (it’s possible that’s not true, but I remember it that way….ahh memories!) and I was thoroughly entertained by the whole thing.
For those who have managed to miss this little Caribbean-set gem, the plot follows the aforementioned Harvey family who inherit a sailboat from Short’s uncle and must get it back to Miami to sell the thing to a boat dealer, as one does. As the family is both in a rut and also trying to avoid letting their 16-year-old daughter marry the roughneck biker dude she’s engaged to, they decide to make an adventure of it. Our patriarch, whose first name is also conveniently Martin, at first must cajole and convince his family that the boat isn’t that bad, that this whole thing is an adventure, and so on. But once Captain Ron enters the picture as a captain for hire and starts charming the hell out of everyone but Martin, the ship log entries get saltier and saltier as Martin grows more disillusioned.
As for why I’m so entertained? First, I love the dynamic of Martin and Ron, who struggles to be competent at captaining but actually does teach the whole family how to sail somehow. And the locations are top-notch Caribbean paradises that make me want to go buy a boat and float off the grid.
As for how Martin Harvey ranks against other bumbling ’90s dads, I’d say he’s firmly between Charles Grodin in Beethoven and Steve Martin in Father of the Bride. Brooke, what other dads come to mind in this category? And what would be your seafaring nickname from Ron? Boss, Kittie, Babe and Swab are taken, for the record.
B: I think your placement is spot on. I would also add Rick Moranis in the Honey, I Shrunk series, Chevy Chase in Man of the House and Tim Allen in anything to this pile of dads trying to dad. The ’90s were a time when you could be the least fun, most predictable person in a movie, still be the star and get a wife who is way too beautiful/saintly for you. This formula also favors the studly guy who interrupts the norm and threatens the dad, but really just teaches the whole fam to be better for each other, but Captain Ron may be the most outlandish and fun of those, so good on Kurt Russell.
I think Captain Ron would give me a nickname along the line of Specs (for my glasses) or Book (cause many a less-than-clever has gone there, I don’t mind it). I’ll go so far as to venture that he’d call you Princess, cause of your Disney Princess vibes. Do you agree?
Okay, give me your favorite stop on this voyage. I’ll also accept your favorite misadventure or escapade. And … GO!
A: I’m ok with Princess, it’s something my real dad calls me, so it’s a good look. I concur with Specs, it does seem like something that would just flow naturally out of Ron’s mouth.
My favorite stop is far and away Cuba, where the Harvey family accidentally drifts after their boat is stolen by pirates. I believe Cuba is currently someplace an American can actually travel to without fear of getting locked up (hopefully it stays that way, because Cuba is on the travel bucket list), but in the mid ’90s, it was still almost North Korea-level verboten. I mean, is it realistic that they’d drift in an inflatable lifeboat from Puerto Rico to Cuba in about the same amount of time that their pirates sailed their boat to the same destination? And that Captain Ron would be there in a stolen ’50s jalopy to rescue them and help them steal back the boat? No way, but it’s a grand adventure.
Brooke, what’s your escapade of choice? And while we’re talking names, what would you name your sailboat should you inherit or purchase one? Mine would 100% be Great White Delight.
B: I think I most fancied the sort-of desert island that Captain Ron “accidentally” navigated to where the gang enjoyed burgers while he enjoyed the company of a lady friend and Martin Short got captured by guerrillas. The wordplay was unexpectedly clever and frankly, I would love a desert island that came equipped to serve me snacks and dessert betwixt all of my beach naps.
First, I must protest that you’ve clearly spent A LOT of time thinking about boat names. I have not. But, I do know this much, I refuse to get in on the pun game as it props up a lot of childish innuendo that I just don’t love. Instead, I have two options. The first is simple. No. It’s the perfect name because it doubles as an answer to questions people with boats get — Can I drive? No. Do you want give your engine a rest and come for a ride on In-Her Course? No. Does this boat make my hairline look more full? No. And it signals a contrarian rebellious image that I’d prefer to have, but not to have to work too hard to maintain. My second name is higher concept and exists expressly for the purpose of shaming people who are either fictional or long-since dead: The ONE boat that went back for Rose. You get it. And if you don’t, I’m not going to explain it.
Is there anything else I need to know about this movie, AM? Or have we unpacked all of its treasures?
A: I have questions for you. How do you know if people with boats get asked if someone else can drive? Have you asked boat captains if you can steer instead? Is it difficult to drive a boat?
Confession: I actually didn’t think about mine too much, perhaps sharks are always on the brain. And I really like your high concept second choice, but I can assure you that that particular boat didn’t have a name because as far as I know, lifeboats on the Titanic do not come with individual names. Perhaps you can call it the 5th Officer Harold Lowe? Or Hero Lowe for short? While I like No., I find myself drawn to Hero Lowe. Mostly because you’re right, I don’t think most people would get its significance.
And also, a minor quibble on your favorite island stop. Captain Ron’s lady friend is actually on the next island after the one with the crashed plane full of snacks and guerrillas who take Martin hostage. Remember, he only knew where they were because she was there. “CLARISE? ARE YOU WAVING AT ME?”
Anyway, I think that will about do it, once we’ve cleared up how you know so much about boat driving.
B: I have driven boats before (it’s easy and I was voluntold, I didn’t ask, but FORGIVE ME, I was mostly making things up for the sake of humor. I’m a hack and you’ve exposed me!
I’ll allow the complaint about my island mix-up, I did wonder if I wasn’t mashing things up. For the record, I pick the snack island, as should we all.
Next time, we’ll be diving into a bleak dystopia. So long, whimsical ’90s fare!