It works thanks to Wallace Beery. Jackie Cooper is mostly insufferable here--the pairing worked much better in The Champ (probably thanks to Vidor and the fact that Cooper was still too young to be annoying).
Starts off great with Barrymore giving a memorable performance as the somewhat crotchety old seaman Billy Bones, but really goes downhill once the story shifts to Cooper and Beary. Cooper is really just awful to be blunt about it. Woefully miscast, I think someone like a Freddie Bartholomew wouldve been much better. A missed opportunity to adapt this classic story