It may have forced whimsy, but does it work?

Still from IMDB

Somewhere in the later story and character establishing scenes of the A Boy Called Sailboat beginning, we see J.K. Simmons. Here, he plays a cooky car dealer, whose dealership is in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near the American/Mexican border. He only has three automobiles, a small shack, and a used rust-bucket of a sailboat for sale. Our hero, a young boy with a guitar in his arms and a song in his heart (his name is Sailboat), comes to stare at the vessel while J.K. spins his salesman pitch for the kids’ approval.

This is weird, right? Well, not the good kind.

The weirdness, the strangeness in A Boy Called Sailboat, meant to be straight fantasy and dreamlike, perhaps like a storybook, feels forced and overly constructed instead. From a score that ranges its influences from nursery rhymes to classic rock songs, from settings and characters with one too many gimmicks, from a sweet tale of a child wanting to play a song for his Grandmother, comes a movie too concerned with how it wants to be seen as than in telling a story that naturally produces wonder. It’s not a mess, just frustratingly mediocre.

The young boy, whose family lives in an ever tilting home held up by a long stick, finds a little guitar one day. This sets off a chain of events that is meant to turn upside down a community of oddities and is supposed to melt our hearts. Our icy cold hearts.

The boy isn’t wide-eyed or stuck in the clouds though. Rather, he’s stoic and matter of factly. His father, played by Noel G. in a surprisingly touching performance, starts off with a constantly miffed and always stressed out body language. This changes to joy when his son plays a song for him and, ultimately, for everyone. I honestly didn’t think Noel could express anything more than aggression, but here he is, smiling with a genuine spirit. It’s beautiful to watch.

J.K., aside from his one scene, is filmed driving a car twice, and that’s it. The rest of the movie is supported by the likes of Jake Busey and other child actors, all of whom do the best they can with the material given. There’s no scene chewing, no theatrics shouted, no melodrama. Just a group of cast and crew trying their best. In the end, A Boy Called Sailboat inflicts a forced sense of whimsy that never feels rightfully portrayed or right as is. It’s textbook filmmaking with underwhelming and overblown writing, and that combination just doesn’t work.

RATING: 2 / 5

Independent film critic. Progressive po’ boy, moviegoing romantic. SEFCA member, 🍅 - approved. Newsletter at

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