Bob Hoskins gives a solid performance in the title role of Robert Young’s mildly engaging “Captain Jack,” the story of a rebellious sea captain who orchestrates a devious voyage to the Arctic. Writing and direction lack excitement, and this modestly mounted U.K. item seems best suited for the tube.
Loosely inspired by a true story, “Captain Jack” centers on an irreverent mariner (Hoskins) who is obsessed with a Captain Scoresby, who in 1791 sailed courageously from Whitby in northern England to the Arctic. When first seen, Jack argues that Scoresby has not been sufficiently honored in his town for the great man that he was.
Jack’s dream is to relive Scoresby’s journey to the Arctic, with all its danger and excitement. He thus assembles an oddball crew that includes two elderly sisters who constantly argue; Andy (Peter McDonald), an Australian hitchhiker who wants to be far from his girlfriends; and Tessa (Sadie Frost), a local girl who stows away in order to be with Andy.
Initial scenes quite charmingly reveal everyday life in a small provincial village that seems to be populated mostly by eccentrics. Prominent among them is Jack’s confidante Barbara (Jemma Jones), who runs the local caravan park. Barbara succeeds in helping Jack realize his fantasy by holding the authorities at bay while he sets sail in an old boat deemed unseaworthy by the local inspector. But shortly after their departure, the repainted and renamed boat is pursued by the Royal Navy, NATO and a fleet of curious journalists.
On board, all kinds of family and romantic strains prevail, but the trip continues as planned. In pic’s second half, story slows down considerably — until an unexpected confrontation with a couple of polar bears, an experience that’s at once funny and frightening. Jack is eventually jailed for defying the law, but it doesn’t matter, because in the process he’s becomes a local hero.
Director Young shows too much reverence for Jack Rosenthal’s simple, sporadically charming script, and his evenhanded helming accentuates the weaknesses of the writing. On the plus side, an accomplished ensemble of British actors, headed by Hoskins and Jones, conveys effortlessly the liberating quality of the trip for its participants.
Tech credits are unassuming, though Richard Harvey’s score overwhelms the quiet yarn.