It was fun to revisit The Boatniks, a Disney live-action comedy from 1970.Ensign and major klutz Tom Garland (played by Robert Morse) has an eventful first assignment at a Southern California Coast Guard station. His commanding officer (played by Don Ameche) knew Tom’s father, a decorated war hero, and, therefore, holds Tom to a higher, if not impossible, standard. He meets the atttactive and smart sailing instructor Kate (played by Stephanie Powers). And he encounters three suspicious men (played by Norman Fell, Mickey Shaugnessy, and the great Phil Silvers) who actually are wanted criminals who have just pulled off a major jewelry heist and accidentally drop the jewels in the ocean near Tom’s Coast Guard station.
What ensues is a late-1960s/early-1970s Disney-style screwball comedy as the three bumbling criminals try to recover the jewels and clumsy Tom and beautiful Kate try to figure out what the guys are up to. Also in the comedic mix are a bevy of zany characters who dock their boats nearby (hence the title of the film).
The pacing is slow and the comedy is definitely dated; still, I had blast re-watching this film after many years. The Southern California location shots are fun to see (along with the soundstage cuts of the actors in the boats). Stephanie Powers lights up the screen with a great 1970s vibe. Phil Silvers, although not given a brilliant script to work with, still livens every scene he’s in with his incredible comedic timing, expression, and delivery.
Ultimately, watching The Boatniks again made me very nostalgic for the classic Disney live-action feature family comedy genre which no longer exists. While none of these post-Walt comedies were particularly brilliant, there’s a definite charm to them. Seasons change, but I wish that fun, family friendly, non-franchise comedies could be part of The Walt Disney Studios’ slate once again for families everywhere to enjoy.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars