Shot in 2005, "Drunkboat" is based on a play from 1985, though it might as well have been 1965 -- when its particular funny-sad theatrical contrivances might've seemed fresh.

Shot in 2005, “Drunkboat” is based on a play from 1985, though it might as well have been 1965 — when its particular funny-sad theatrical contrivances might’ve seemed fresh. Reflecting a dated playwriting mode that stretched from Saroyan to Herb Gardner before snapping, it features lovable losers and dream-filled naifs pursuing whimsically crackpot schemes between big speeches. Such stuff seldom translated well to the screen, nor does it in Bob Meyer’s adaptation of his stage text. The presence of John Malkovich, John Goodman and Dana Delaney will aid smallscreen sales, but the July 13 theatrical launch is likely to sink fast.

Deciding to end his 20-year drunken stupor after one humiliation too many, Vietnam vet Mort (Malkovich) lands on the suburban Chicago doorstep of widowed sister Eileen (Delaney). She reluctantly lets him in, giving him a wary chance at starting over, which he seems determined to make good on. Meanwhile her teenage son Abe decides his shot at freedom — or something — lies in purchasing a dilapidated sailboat from two ne’er-do-well booze salesmen (Goodman, Jim Ortlieb). Sketchy character development, stagy language and forced lyricism ultimately trump competent perfs and packaging.

Drunkboat

Production

A Seven Arts/Lantern Lane release of a Magnificent Miles Prods., Leftbank Films and Seven Arts Pictures presentation of a Drunkboat Chicago production. Produced by Steven A. Jones, Daniel J. Walker. Co-producer, Christina Varotsis. Executive producers, Chase Bailey, Anthony J. Tomaska, Joseph J. Tomaska, Thomas H. Baur, James A. Cameron. Directed, written by Bob Meyer, from the play by Meyer, L. Randall Buescher.

Crew

Camera (color, Super-16 to HD), Lisa Rinzler; editor, Mario Battistel; music, Mark Ribot; production designer, Richard Hoover; set decorator, Larry Lundy; costume designer, Susan Kaufmann. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, July 5, 2012. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 88 MIN.

With

John Malkovich, John Goodman, Jim Ortlieb, Brian Deneen, Skipp Sudduth, Dana Delany, Jacob Zachar.

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