Lieutenant Jordan (Joey Forman) of the California Coast Guard is retiring today, tired of not being able to enjoy the pleasant surroundings of this marina and the bay when he has to attend to so many members of the public getting into difficulties instead. He's off to take care of the icebergs up north, so his superior officer, Commander Taylor (Don Ameche), has summoned the son of a colleague he knew from way back in the hope that Ensign Garland (Robert Morse) will be equally as capable. However, Garland is an accident prone chap, and blots his copybook almost immediately...
The Boatniks (a not exactly up to date pun on "beatniks", which does not apply to one character hererin anyway) was one of those Disney live action comedies made with the family in mind. You could say that of all such productions made under their banner, but rather than appeal strictly to kids, this was more an attempt to draw in the mums and dads and grandparents, as after all if you got all the family members interested, then the takings were more likely to increase, and the audience were more likely to attend the next Disney epic to arrive at their local theatres. For this reason, there were not any major characters under the age of twenty-five here.
Morse had already proven himself an adept light comedian, so should not have found the adventures in this too taxing, and he was surrounded by a cast whose experience meant you were in safe pairs of hands even if the laughs were not as forthcoming as you might have hoped. Not that The Boatniks was especially offensive, indeed it was its very inoffensiveness that rendered much of the humour mild and obvious. On the other hand, if you wanted to see a bunch of old pros do their thing, then you could have done worse, as the plot went through the basic "catch the jewel thieves" runaround.
Those jewel robbers are a gang of three, led by Harry Simmons (Phil Silvers putting in what was probably the best performance), backed up by his two bumbling cohorts, Max (Norman Fell) and Charlie (Mickey Shaughnessy) who plan to escape with their loot to Mexico where they can spend their ill-gotten gains. To do this they go to the marina with a view to taking a yacht and sailing there, under the impression that because Harry has read a book on sailing then they will find it a breeze, but naturally it does not wind up that way. As for the jewels, they have been placed inside the contents of a picnic basket, which leads to the phrase "picnic basket" being used about a billion times throughout the movie.
Especially when that basket ends up dropped in the bay when the yachting excursion goes wrong, and they have to retrieve it. In the meantime, Garland is making a fool of himself by getting into various scrapes such as falling in the water or getting stranded while trying to rescue someone, so he will need something to redeem himself in the eyes of the Commander. He also gets to tentatively romance Kate (Stefanie Powers) who works in the bay, and becomes his sidekick when they begin to twig that those three holidaymakers might not be all they seem. There are a few jokes for the parents here that would doubtlessly go over the heads of the youngsters, such as the budding round the world yachtsman who is leaving about ten kids behind with his wife and she unsurprisingly can't wait to see the back of him, and there's a nice bit of business when Harry recruits a Japanese pearl diver (Midori), but mostly The Boatniks simply putters along making barely a ripple. Music by Robert F. Brunner.