Despite the High Seas setting, the film takes the form of merely a series of conversations among various characters on the boat. Central to them is grad student Dale (Tony Mamet, David's brother), working the boat to earn money during the summer. Then there's an ornery captain (Charles Durning) and his number two (George Wendt). There's a strange fireman (Denis Leary) who stays below deck. There are horny guys (J.J. Johnston and Jack Wallace) who argue the merits of Steven Seagal and his toughness. There's also a lovable deckhand (Robert Forster) who teaches Dale a thing or two about life, love, and so on.
Mantegna, who's been skulking around with Mamet since anyone can remember, works with the Mamet dialogue cadence and the claustrophobia of the ship's confines with fair aplomb. Unfortunately, the script/play doesn't have any driving narrative to force you to keep watching. You can get up, go to the kitchen for a snack, come back 15 minutes later, and you really won't have missed anything except for a couple of jokes and some characters longing for their youth.
But the dialogue is crisp enough and the actors are so incredibly professional that they absolutely own their characters. Johnston and Wallace, especially when they're on screen together, steal the show.
Lakeboat is hardly the best tale to come out of Mamet's pen, but as with most of his work, it's hard to find much fault with it. Mamet knows people so well that you can forgive his lack of actual story once in awhile.
Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 13th April 2000
Distributed by: Oregon Trail Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 7
IMDB: 6.1 / 10
Director: Joe Mantegna
Screenwriter: David Mamet
Also starring: Tony Mamet, Jack Wallace, George Wendt, Andy Garcia, Roberta Angelica, Diane Fabian, Lori Gordon, Steven Grayhm, Jason Jazrawy, Patrick Patterson, Saul Rubinek, Charles Seixas, Morris Ruskin, David Mamet