a review by Nalini Haynes
Cruise of the Gods follows Andy Van Allen (Rob Brydon), who starred as the central character in a cult 1980s futuristic TV show, Children of Castor, before falling on hard times working as a hotel porter. Desperately short of cash, Andy agrees to star at a Children of Castor convention to be held on a cruise ship, only to reveal his true nature: Andy is an obnoxious excuse for a human being who feels he deserves more, ironically contrasted with his character who was the ‘heart’ and moral compass of the group of central characters in the TV show. Children of Castor was a post-apocalyptic SF TV show from the early 1980s with appalling special effects and worse writing, based on the clips from the series shown during Cruise. Regardless, a fan group meets together on a cruise to celebrate their love for the series, meet actors and a writer from the series.
Unlike other movies about fandom like Fanboys, Cruise of the Gods is not a comedic celebration of fandom that could have been written by ‘one of us’. Cruise appears to have been written by someone who’s done his research, even attended conventions, but there is a sense of separation. Andy is both unlikeable and aloof from the fans and the other guests, who are portrayed as somewhat tragic figures for amusement. I felt Cruise was largely derogatory although I couldn’t deny any of its barbs. I think it’s a matter of perspective and focus: if a character obsesses about football to an extreme, that character is often seen as loveable if exasperating and flawed. Science fiction fans deserve the same love and respect. I struggled with Cruise, and then…
Two-thirds of the way through, Cruise redeemed itself in my eyes. Andy becomes the focus of criticism, he’s challenged and starts to change. Other characters also take initiative, reveal back stories and develop as characters. To me, the last third or quarter made this movie worthwhile. Much of the movement in this portion of the movie had been foreshadowed early on, it just took a long time to get there. (It’s only a 90 minute movie but remember, I’m not a fan of awkward comedy…)
The extras include an alternative ending, at least part of which should have been included within the movie. A couple of minutes more in the movie would have raised appeal for fans.
Cruise of the Gods is by the writer of Calendar Girls, Kinky Boots and Confessions of a Shopaholic, Tim Firth. I really enjoyed Calendar Girls and Kinky Boots, but I haven’t watched Confessions of a Shopaholic. Of Firth’s previous movies that I have watched, I’d say that his gentle comedic approach and love for his characters shone through, making these movies a joy to watch. Unfortunately I didn’t sense the same love for Firth’s characters in Cruise of the Gods.
According to Madman’s website, NERD-BURGERS, THE NEW BLACK says
With pop-culture conventions increasing in popularity, this one off feature-length TV movie is sure to appeal to the cult TV fans, plus lovers of awkward British comedy.
I agree that Cruise of the Gods will appeal to ‘lovers of awkward British comedy’ like The Office and Extras; unfortunately I’m not a fan of awkward comedy.
An awkward review for an awkward comedy… This is another review I’ve found difficult to write. If I delve into the analysis of why the movie impressed me, why the writing is intelligent and thought-provoking, I give away huge spoilers from the latter portion of the movie. I’ll sum up with this: recommended for people who enjoy comedies like The Office. Also recommended for people who don’t enjoy the Office but who enjoy depth and substance to their movies and are prepared to persevere through the Office-like portion of the movie. Recommended for people who enjoy taking the piss of the ‘inner circles’ of fandom.
PS I’ve only ever watched the pilot for The Office (the British version) and seen ads – hubby loathed it so I haven’t managed to see any more. If The Office has the depth of Cruise, I might enjoy it – it’s just an acquired taste.
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