The Boat That Rocked

The Boat That Rocked


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

If writer-cum-director Richard Curtis has proved anything over the years, it’s that he can make people laugh. Sure, his assortment of Hugh Grant-starring rom coms also contain plenty of emotional drama and their fair share of poignant moments, but the likes of Four Weddings And A Funeral and Notting Hill are held by many as the very definition of laugh-out-loud British comedy (who else could coin the phrase f**k-a-doodle-do?).

With this in mind, it’s all the more disappointing how The Boat That Rocked fails to live up to these heady heights. Feeling like watered-down Curtis, the jokes frequently fall flat and you keep waiting for the big laughs that we know he can deliver. Doubtless, some of the audience will be tickled at Rhys Ifans contradictory sex advice or Bill Nighy’s funky dancing, but those expecting knee-slaps from start to finish will be disappointed.

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Is this due to Curtis’ departure from floppy hair-featuring romantic comedies? Perhaps, but the main reason is the way too-long running time and rather spotty plotting. Yes, the bespectacled scripter has shown before that he can keep us entertained for over two hours (Love Actually clocked in at 135 minutes), but here the goings-one feel more like lots of loosely-connected sketches and drawn-out set-ups than pieces of a driving (or should that be sailing?) narrative.

Speaking of the plot, here we travel back to the Sixties, when British terrestrial radio stations only played the very bare minimum of pop music and fans relied on pirate radio stations to get their fix. Aboard the Radio Rock, Captain Quentin (Nighy) has assembled a colourful selection of DJ’s including rebellious cult-figure Gavin (Ifans), bearded alpha-male The Count (James Seymour Hoffman), chubby joker Dave (Nick Frost) and sensitive flake Simon (Chris O’Dowd). While expelled school boy Carl (Tom Sturridge) is sent on board from his mother in order to find some direction, a Government Minister (Kenneth Branagh) and his assistant (Jack Davenport) try their best to outlaw such broadcasting.

And as for the cast? Well, the good news is that from top to bottom the ensemble is comprised of talented individuals who look like they’re having a sea-faring ball. Unfortunately, the bad news is that there’s so many of them viying for screen time that each one is undercooked and ends up feeling like those background faces we expect to pop up every now and then. .

However, while it might not hit the comedic highs to which we’re used to, as a love-letter to popular Sixties music and the rebellious stations that nourished starving fans, The Boat That Rocked does, for lack of a better word, rock. Having stated time again that his true love (actually) is music, Curtis’ passion blaringly comes across as we’re treated to a host of retro-classics. From Bowie to the Stones, from Jimi Hendrix to Cream, this is one feel-good playlist that demands some serious foot-tapping.

While the adults and music fans in the audience will probably lap up the era-capturing vibe, those expecting another Bridget Jones’ Diary will be left wanting. Richard Curtis might be one of the best comic writers out there, but this definitely a trip into uncharted waters. Now, how much is that soundtrack?

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2009
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The story of a boat-based pirate radio station which the government tries to ban.
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Read more The Boat That Rocked reviews:

George Williamson **
Jennie Kermode **

Director: Richard Curtis

Writer: Richard Curtis

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Tom Sturridge, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Kenneth Branagh, Chris O'Dowd, Talulah Riley, January Jones, Emma Thompson

Year: 2009

Runtime: 135 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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