Maria Balibalos | Hamilton, Ontario Canada | 01/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a nice story and good performance by the actors. Jon Bon Jovi can act. He is entertaining in this movie."
Something the heart, something blame, you something somethin
Andrew McCaffrey | Satellite of Love, Maryland | 05/23/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"When looking at the cast list for this film, I originally intended to construct my review entirely from lyrics of Jon Bon Jovi songs. Unfortunately, it turns out that I don't know any Jon Bon Jovi lyrics. But I suspect that even if I did, no one reading this would recognize them anyway.
In any event, in ROW YOUR BOAT Jon Bon Jovi plays a guy recently released from prison. He isn't quite ready for the path to the straight and narrow in the newly found freedom he has in New York City. His hobbies include breaking into people's apartments, drinking their wine, stealing their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and then jumping out the fire escape when the owners come home.
However, a chance encounter with his brother pushes him towards improving his lot in life. You see, the brother he went to prison to protect is still mixed up in crime and Mr. Jovi resolves not to follow in those footsteps. Exactly what kind of crimes his brother commits are left a little vague. His antics include breaking into empty Chinese restaurants at night, having a crummy apartment full of boxes and boxes of CD players, and getting pushed around by an Asian gangster with bleached hair. (The Asian gangster, incidentally is named Tony Lo Fat. Which I presume is what you get when you put a Soprano on a diet.)
While sleeping in a homeless shelter, he happens along a US Census official, and gets the bright idea of working for that government department. In one of the movie's unintentionally fun moments, the frustrated and over-worked federal employee is played by Thomas Lennon - better known as the cop in the really small shorts in RENO 911.
So Jovi begins his life as a census-taker, which puts him in all manner of apparently funny situations. At one point, he is forced to shout "No, I'm not crack-head! I work for the United States government!" at people who refuse to take his clipboard seriously.
Eventually, his job causes him to cross paths with the Chinese immigrant (played by Ling Bai) he will be forced to share awkward and unwieldy romantic dialog with for the rest of the movie. Yes, apparently, not only will censor-takers count the number of baths and bedrooms you have, they'll also scope you out and presumably take their research back to the big babe-o-meter database back in Washington, DC where they and their decedents will plan generations of inappropriate questioning.
Now, to understand the next bit, you must realize that ROW YOUR BOAT is the kind of romantic movie set in a world very similar to, but ultimately completely different to our Earth. Using his job, he gains access to her house. His position allows him to as Bai all kinds of personal questions (none of which are on the official forms, of course). Using his creepily-gotten information, he then sets himself up as an English teacher (something he has zero experience with) and offers to give her lessons in linguistics for virtually no money.
Is this behavior charming? Well, apparently it is in movie land. However, I suspect that the kind of guy who does this sort of thing in real life will one day find himself in a model home full of hidden cameras with Chris Hanson asking him if he wouldn't mind explaining himself.
I digress, but the rest of the film is relatively ordinary anyway. The main sources of conflict are between Jovi and his brother and also between Bai and her husband. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention above that Jovi is pulling this stuff on a married woman. I suppose the fact that it's an unhappy marriage to a high ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party gives Jovi a free license to creep.
The film is slightly difficult to watch in places. I'm honestly not sure if the Digiview Productions version of the disc is edited for content, or the director had a dose of narcolepsy in the editing room. Scenes (particularly in the first half of the film) tend to jerk around randomly. In one notable portion, it's unclear whether a shoving match takes place inside or outside.
This odd editing is representative of the film as a whole, particularly the script. This leaves the actors with very little to work with. Jill Hennessy has nothing to do as the girlfriend of Jovi's brother. We can't seem to figure out whether the gangster bother is really playing in the big leagues or not (or just in over his head in a very small racket). By the end of the movie, Jovi and Bai actually display some romantic chemistry, but the script has no idea what to do with it.
ROW YOUR BOAT is pretty much a waste of time. The romance is unsure of itself. The gangster scenes are never as tough or gritty as they need to be. The film as a whole seems to take itself much more seriously than it has any business doing. While it's sometimes funny to watch a high-flying movie take a flop, I had very little fun with this train wreck.
(On a personal note, I'd like to extend my condolences to the career of William Forsythe. This is how he is mentioned on the back cover of the DVD: "[...] his brother, played by William Forsythe (DICK TRACY, THE ROCK, DEUCE BIGALOW: MALE GIGALO) [...]" Can you imagine how you'd feel if that was your career trajectory?)"