Released in 1924, just shortly after Sherlock Jr., The Navigator stars Buster Keaton as Rollo Treadway, a hapless heir to a family fortune who one day takes it into his head to marry his girlfriend (Kathryn McGuire). He makes all the arrangements for their honeymoon trip, booking a berth on a ship bound for Hawaii. Unfortunately, he does this before the rather critical step of asking the girl…. A few mishaps and a misread dock number later, and the two of them independently find themselves trapped on the same boat, unmanned and set adrift.
It’s a wonder why anybody books a cruise at all.
The situation provides the setup for a lot of physical humor, both for Keaton and McGuire, as well as a bit of situational humor. That the characters can’t crew a ship by themselves is natural enough, but both are evidently used to servants handling all the chores for them, as each proves completely incompetent at basic tasks such as cooking. This, of course, just makes everything all the funnier.
There is a moment of slowness, however, in a scene in which the boat springs a leak and Keaton has to don a diving suit to go outside and fix it. The underwater scenes, while shot well by director Donald Crisp, drag the picture down a bit. They’re slow, and they don’t provide as much humor as Keaton was clearly hoping to get out of them.
Despite this, the film as a whole has some very good laughs, particularly at the very end. It’s probably not the film to show somebody who is new to Keaton’s work — The General or Sherlock Jr. may be better choices — but those who are already Keaton fans will appreciate it.