Movie: Captain Ron, 1992
Reviewed by Justin Slosky
Beverage Pairing: The Captain Ron
I created this drink on the fly, just for the movie, using whatever beverages I had on hand at the moment.
Basically it was:
1 part dry gin
1 part Trader Joe’s orange-peach-mango juice
1 part fizzy water
Serve over ice in a Mason jar.
Movie Bro’s Review:
I remember seeing ads for Captain Ron as an 11 year old. On one hand, it seemed like just another of those warm-hearted, family-oriented movies that the studios shit out or at least used to. On the other hand, it just looked…weird. It didn’t seem like a movie my parents would enjoy. So I didn’t end up going to see it (few did; it was a huge flop).
But something about it spoke to me. Somehow the idea of Captain Ron marinated in my brain for over two decades, until one fateful day, totally out of the blue, I was overtaken by a strange desire to watch it. Why? I’ll never know. But I’m happy I did.
The movie’s story starts like this: Martin Harvey (Martin Short) is frustrated with his life. He doesn’t have anything to complain about, really. He has a pretty good middle-management job. But it’s just pretty good. He’s still perpetually put-upon.
This is established early on, when he’s rushing to work in downtown Chicago and gets trapped in a revolving door when the a-hole right in front of him decides to strike up a conversation before exiting, blocking Martin inside. Then Martin orders a cup of coffee, only to have some other a-hole with a cold sneeze into it. The world is full of a-holes, or at least it seems that way to Martin. Why is he always the butt of other people’s thoughtlessness? If only there was a way for him to be the captain of his own destiny…
One good aspect of Captain Ron is that it doesn’t waste time getting to the real story. That whole set-up lasts approximately three screen minutes, over opening credits. Then, BOOM! Martin inherits a dilapidated sailboat named Wanderer from a crazy dead uncle with a wandering soul, and within what seems like seconds the whole Harvey family is suddenly in the the Caribbean. There’s no deep or dark psychology here.
There is little plot to this movie. Martin needs to pilot Wanderer to Miami so he can sell it to a used yacht dealer (played, oddly, by 60’s crooner Paul Anka with a Trump-esque orange tan). In comes Captain Ron Rico (Kurt Russell), a one-eyed salty dog mariner with loose morals and shaky boat captaining skills.
Captain Ron IS Captain Ron. This shouldn’t be surprising given the film’s title, but Kurt Russell owns this movie. Some critics at the time of the film’s release were upset that leading man Russell was cast in the screwball character role, while comic whiz Short (fresh off playing a flamboyant wedding planner in smash hit Father of the Bride) was given the straight man role. They are stupid.
Kurt Russell, who displays remarkable natural comedy chops, tears into Captain Ron. Kurt Russell’s Captain Ron is more or less a send-up of his famous one-eyed Escape from New York character Snake Plissken, but removed of any heroic qualities. He drinks beers with Martin’s middle school age son Ben (played by Benjamin Salisbury…like Martin, they didn’t even bother changing the character’s name from the actor’s), and gambles with him. He salsa dances with Martin’s trampy teenage daughter Caroline (Meadow Sisto, sister of Jeremy Sisto) and not-discreetly-at-all videotapes Martin’s shapely wife Katherine (Mary Kay Place) bending over.
Captain Ron has almost no drama, but what conflict there is arises between Martin and his skipper. Ron Rico is everything the uptight, hemmed-in Martin wishes he could be: always relaxed and totally free. Ron takes a “Zen” approach to life and ship-piloting, which a threatened Martin tries to play off as incompetence. Will Martin fire Captain Ron? Or will Martin learn to embrace “the Captain Ron way”? That’s the one, thin dramatic thread that strings this story along.
This is a silly movie. It’s like National Lampoon’s Caribbean Vacation, but in a boat instead of a station wagon. It even has with its own Vacation-style Christie Brinkley moment. While docked on a Caribbean island, a beautiful native maiden rises out of the surf and makes eyes at a flattered Martin. But then Ron Rico makes his presence known, and we learn it’s Ron who she’s been winking at. Martin has been played again by Ron, who leaves the ship to bed down with the mystery girl. Damn you, Captain Ron! You did it again!
This is not a “good movie.” It has plot holes, including one incredibly, embarrassingly big one. Long story short, the family and Captain Ron get separated. When the family is in trouble, Captain Ron emerges out of nowhere in the nick of time, for no apparent reason. “How did you know know where to find us, Captain Ron? asks little Ben, speaking for all of us. “I didn’t,” answers Captain Ron. “I just got lucky.”
That’s the definition of sloppy, half-ass storytelling, and it’s also the spirit that makes Captain Ron borderline great. The slumming-it director Thom Eberhardt (Gross Anatomy, Night of the Comet) clearly did not take this job making a Disney family movie seriously, and it shows. Everyone seems like they’re having a great time on the set of this movie.
Watching Captain Ron, you feel you’re on your third Dark and Stormy or fruity island Daiquiri, and you’re feeling drunk and feeling great. Wherever you are, it’s five o’clock in the afternoon, Captain Ron Time. This is a fun, dumb movie that knows it’s fun and dumb. It’s not a “bad movie classic”, it’s a “mediocre movie classic,” the likes of which are destined to go uncelebrated.
But Captain Ron should be celebrated. How Disney made this movie, I have no idea. It was an understandable flop at the box office. Who was this movie for? Not children, really. And not adults, either. Only drunk adults. Drunk adults with wandering spirits.
It turns out there’s a boat gear shop in the Bay Area that gives Captain Ron the cult classic recognition it deserves. A place called Duke’s Chandlery in Sausalito, CA is the self-proclaimed home of “The Captain Ron Fan Club.” Says their website:
“We do more than sell copies of Captain Ron on DVD, we live it. All day, everyday. For us, Captain Ron is more than a glorious comedy from the 1980’s [sic], it’s a bible for new and old boat owners alike. If you are fixing your boat, or are done fixing it (for the time being) and are happily sailing it, this epic saga will reflect and inspire you along the way. Come by the Clubhouse and talk about the mystic teachings of Ron Rico or get educated in the more refined aspects of this cinematic achievement by one of our trained professionals.”
The “clubhouse” is open every day between 6 and 7 PM, and if you recite a quote from Captain Ron, you get a free rum glass. It’s time to take a pilgrimage!
Movie Bro’s Rating:
3 Stars (out of 4)
This movie, with all its many faults, struggles just to merit 2.5 stars. But I liked it so much that I gave it an extra .01, and then I rounded that up to 3 stars.
“I’ll Drink To That!” Value:
Extraordinary! Off the navigation charts! You could play a game and take a drink every time Captain Ron pisses off Martin by doing something douchebaggy. Captain Ron has so many classic lines, like, “Incentives are important, I learned that in rehab.”
“I’ll Drink To That!” Moment:
Captain Ron emerges on deck clad only in a red grape-smuggler. He grabs Katherine from behind and grinds on her while teaching her how to steer the boat. “Ohh, man,” he says, “You feel that?”
Movie and Beverage Pairing Grade: 3.5 Stars (out of 4)
I knocked off half a star, because the Captain Ron drink I invented was terrible. But the spirit…the spirit was perfect (and I don’t mean the passable gin I got for $9.99 at Trader Joe’s). Captain Ron would drink a Captain Ron, or something just as thrown-together. But, for future viewings, I think I’d plan ahead and try making a Coco Loco (as found on the list of “8 Best Cruise Cocktails” on cruisecritic.com).
It sounds good:
1 oz dark rum
1 oz light rum
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz creme de bananes
1/2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz coconut cream
1/2 oz sugar syrup
Pour the rums, vodka, creme de bananes, pineapple juice, coconut cream and sugar syrup into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, and strain into a chilled highball glass. Garnish with a pineapple wedge, and serve.