SynopsisThe present. Captain Jack sails day trips in The Yorkshire Lass from Whitby harbour. One day he overhears a teacher praise Captain Cook to her pupils. Jack tells them about his hero, Captain Scorseby, who sailed from Whitby to the Arctic in 1791. Jack decides to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of Scorseby's first voyage to the Arctic by retracing the 1,300 mile journey to Jan Mayen Island. The trip is threatened when The Yorkshire Lass is declared unseaworthy and Jack hastily assembles a naive, inexperienced crew. Jack's friend Barbara, who runs the local caravan park, keeps in radio contact. Local fishermen disguise Jack's departure but soon the Coast Guard and the Royal Navy are in pursuit. Jack terrifies his crew with a dramatic safety-drill exercise. At the island of Foula they are spotted by an RAF helicopter Ð but a cleaning lady vacuums up the vital information that the RAF relays. The crew disguise the boat, set off again and elude pursuing journalists. Jack is washed overboard in a violent storm but is saved by the crew. He suggests they return home, but the crew rebel and sail for Jan Mayen Island. Jack installs a commemorative plaque but is disturbed by a couple of polar bears. In an act of heroism, timid Emmett throws a harpoon and causes a rock slide which scares the bears away. Jack marries two of his crew Ð Tessa and Andy Ð on deck. They arrive back at Whitby to a heroes' welcome.
Review"More of a family film than a children's film per se, Captain Jack spins an amiable enough tale from the true story of Whitby boat-owner Jack Lanniman's voyage to Jan Mayen Island. The tale spinner is veteran comedy scriptwriter Jack Rosenthal. He brings his customary warmth to an indulgent celebration of both the quirky characters who accompany Jack and the man himself, a gruff, quixotic hero. Director Robert Young most likely had the Ealing Comedy tradition in mind, but the film doesn't quite come off, mainly because there is a little too much of the televisual about the production but also because an uncertain tone stems from his timid attempts to be ever so slightly modern. The sheer amount of plot also pushes some of the secondary characters to the margins, which given the wealth of acting talent on show is a pity. Unfortunately, the romantic subplot involving a less than vivacious performance from Sadie Frost misfires. However, in the leading role Bob Hoskins gets ample opportunity to portray his romantic misfit. In the hands of other actors this could grate, but Hoskins, his course set firmly "one inch over the horizon", brings a sense of integrity and a genuinely infectious ebullience to his role. In truth, though, despite its bonhomie, bracing deck dramas and wry observation ("that's human nature for you Ð we're all 180 degrees adrift"), the film is a disappointment and its message banal for all but the youngest spectator." John MOUNT
This review appeared in the June 1999 issue of Sight and Sound.