Steamboat Bill, Jr. doesn't, um, float my boat (I know, sorry!) but it's through no fault of it's own. I can't fault a film for being silent when that was the only option. I'm just not into silent films.
I appreciate Buster Keaton as a physical performer (and, now that I've read Wikipedia's entry, I'd like to read a biography on him--his life, especially his stint as a child performer and various marriages, sound fascinating) and he's at least partially inspired basically every single tiny bit of physical comedy on film since. And, well, I love physical comedy more than just about anything else (me dying with laughter equals watching this show).
But, what doesn't quite work for me is the plot that is really extraneous to the physical comedy and actually takes away from the comedy. As evidenced by the WipeOut links above, I'll take pratfalls, falling buildings, banana peels, whatever you have to throw at a person (quite literally) without a plot. The plot here is thin and much much much too insignificant to carry the whole film. But, again, that may be due to silent film's limitations.
And the book says . . . . basically that Keaton was a fab director and actor and masterful physical comedian. It cites the "typhoon" scene as magnificent; agreed but, psssst, hey book, typhoons don't happen anywhere near Mississippi much less on a river, just FYI. Also cited is the hat scene in which the camera is played to as if a mirror. And, of course, the playful way in which the film upends ideas of masculinity and the way Keaton offers a "'modern' and playful awareness of his comic persona" are, according to the book, "Magic."
It seems we have another Keaton coming up soon so we'll have a point of comparison whether we like it or not.
Tracy, you do a lot of masculinity stuff--how does this one stack up?