Proving that not all former child stars end up robbing video stores at gunpoint, the Lawrence brothers parlay the family name into what is sure to be another modest family movie hit for Disney Channel. Joey, Matt and Andy Lawrence give the Olsen twins a run for their money in the terminally cute department, and to that end, writers Chad and Carey Hayes contrive a story to showcase the brothers’ chemistry. “Jumping Ship” is careful not to disrupt the trio’s squeaky-clean image; it sticks to safe territory with this quasi-sequel to the Disney made-for “Horse Sense.”
Eldest bro Joey again serves as exec producer and stars in the showiest role. Although basically a stand-alone story, “Jumping Ship” centers on the relationship between cousins Tommy (Andy) and Mike (Joey).
In “Horse Sense,” spoiled rich kid Mike learned some tough life lessons down on Tommy’s family ranch. But from the opening seg here, it’s apparent that the hard work ethic didn’t stick. Mike has until the end of summer to find a real job, but plans a blowout fishing trip in Australia with Tommy before tackling adulthood.
Their dreams of adventures Down Under are dampened when the luxury boat they’ve chartered turns out to be a rundown heap called the Tiffany, run by a preposterously underage captain, Jake Hunter (Matt Lawrence). With all other boats already booked, the cousins stick with the Tiffany and set out for the high seas.
Unbeknownst to the group, Mike’s opulent spending habits have attracted the attention of some unscrupulous Aussies, and their fishing trip becomes a high-speed pursuit by modern-day pirates.
When Jake scuttles the boat in an attempt to lose the pirates, the three head for a deserted island, where they must overcome their differences and work together to outsmart the bad guys.
Director Michael Lange mixes modest action and cartoonish comedy sequences with feel-good sentiments about family and friendship.
In Disney’s world, the danger is relatively lacking in malice, so the action never generates much of a thrill. The boys are pursued by pirates, but these happen to be clean, well-dressed pirates. In fact, this pic boasts some of the best-dressed castaways ever. Even Ginger didn’t have this many changes of clothes on “Gilligan’s Island.”
“Jumping Ship” provides three elements in the form of the three characters: Joey is the comic relief, bumbling around on land and sea. Matt is the puka-shell-wearing hunk, with a wide array of tank tops designed to attract the preteen female audience. Andy is the wide-eyed innocent who plays it cute and sentimental.
It’s a gimmick that works as passable family entertainment for now, but it won’t have much of a shelf life.
Cinematographer David Burr captures some breathtaking vistas and makes great use of the local wild life. Music by Philip Marshall is at times ill-fitting, but overall tech credits meet a high and impressive standard.