I love to sing the praises of the Lawrence brothers. This is not the only DCOM all three of them are in; Matt made a cameo in Horse Sense (1999, coming in November to this website). However, it’s the only DCOM where they all interact for proper lengths of time together. Set and filmed in Australia, Jumping Ship was directed by Michael Lange and written by Chad and Carey Hayes. It is the rare action-adventure DCOM, though the beginning feels more like a continuation of Horse Sense. Michael (Joey Lawrence) and his cousin Tommy (Andy Lawrence) are closer than ever after their previous summer saving Tommy’s ranch. The cousins have planned an epic and luxurious vacation Down Under.
It’s a bit bothersome that Michael hasn’t changed much since his ranching days in Horse Sense. His dad is harping on him about finding a job, which isn’t too unreasonable to ask of a 20something. Apparently, Michael has dawdled all summer by the pool, which negatively impacts his vacation with Tommy. But before the boys can charter what they expect to be a top-tier yacht, The Tiffany, Michael is pickpocketed. Then, this charming yacht turns out to be a run-down boat, steered by Captain Jake (Matt Lawrence, of course). The rest of the movie turns into a race for the Lawrence bros’ lives. The pickpocket was part of a trio of pirates, bent on looting Michael for all he’s worth and leaving him, Tommy, and Jake for dead.
Against the backdrop of the beautiful ocean, our three amigos are trying to outrun the pirates — first by scuttling The Tiffany and then by hiding out on a deserted island. There are all kinds of creepy crawlies and so many feelings. (DCOMs are supposed to be about feelings, I say!) Tommy feels guilty that he actually likes the man his mom has been seeing, Mark. He doesn’t want to replace his father in any way. Michael is upset that he’s never really had anything to work for in his life. Jake is troubled that he’s hanging on to an old boat and can’t connect with his deceased father through it. All this plays out on the island. Michael isolates himself from the group for a time, but he and Tommy have a touching conversation about Tommy’s dad. Michael reminds Tommy that no one can replace his father. Jake also helps Tommy by encouraging him to open a gift rescued from his suitcase: a hand-carved frame Mark made to house a picture of Tommy and his dad.
Those more emotional moments have a serious but loving tone. Overall, this movie has a bit less levity sprinkled throughout than Horse Sense did, although it’s humorous to watch Michael battle the tropical animals. The crocodile showdown with Jake and Tommy is not humorous, but Michael saves their butts. By the end of the film, he’s leading pirates through a cave to try to trap them. Quick thinking, and maybe some luck, makes the thieves surrender. All’s well that ends well, the boys are safe, the pirates are apprehended, and Michael and Jake go into business together with the charter boat. How about a third installment, guys?