Captain Jack (2007): Starring Bob Hoskins

Bob Hoskins gives a solid performance in the title role of Robert Young’s Captain Jack, a mildly engaging comedy-adventure about a rebellious sea captain who orchestrates a devious voyage to the Arctic. Since most of the pic’s characters are old, and the writing and direction lack much excitement, this modestly mounted U.K. item seems best suited for the tube.

Loosely inspired by a true story, Captain Jack tells the story of an irreverent sea captain named Jack (Hoskins) who’s obsessed with his predecessor, Captain Scoresby, who in 1791 sailed courageously from Whitby in North 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 dangers and excitements. He thus assembles an oddball crew that consists of two elderly sisters who constantly wary; Andy (Peter McDonald), an Australian hitchhiker who wants to be far away from his girlfriends; Tessa (Sadie Frost), a local girl who stows away in order to be with Andy, and a few others.

First scenes reveal quite charmingly everyday life in a small provincial village which seems to be mostly populated by eccentrics. Prominent among them is Barbara (Jemma Jones), Jack’s confidante who runs the local caravan park. Barbara succeeds in helping Jack realize his fantasy by holding the authorities at bay back in Whitby, while he sets sails on 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 resident arctic polar bears, an experience which is at once funny and scary. At the end, Captain Jack is put in jail for defying the law, but it doesn’t matter, as he becomes a local hero, who not only fulfills his lifelong aspiration but also manages to bring a measure of magic to the drab lives of those who traveled with him.

Director Young shows too much reverence for Jack Rosenthal’s simple, sporadically charming script, and his even-handed helming accentuates the weaknesses of the writing. On the plus side, an accomplished ensemble of British actors, headed by Hoskins, Jones, and others, conveys effortlessly the liberation of the trip, an experience which helps each passenger rediscover their true selves.

Tech credits are unassuming, though Richard Harvey’s score is too overwhelming for this kind of yarn.

A Winchester Films, Granada and Baltic Media presentation, in association with the Arts Council of England of a John Goldscmidt production. Produced by John Goldschmidt. Executive producers, Pippa Cross, Chris Craib, William Sargent. Directed by Robert Young. Screenplay, Jack Rosenthal. Camera (color), John McGlashan; editor, Edward Mansell; music, Richard Harvey; production design, Simon Holland. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 20, 1998. Running time: 90 min.
Captain Jack…Bob Hoskins
Andy……..Peter McDonald
Tessa……….Sadie Frost
Barbara……..Jemma Jones