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The Boat That Rocked - Review

The Boat That Rocked

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

RICHARD Curtis remains one of the most successful writer-directors in British film following hits such as Four Weddings & A Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually. With The Boat That Rocked he looks set to repeat the trick but his films are increasingly offering diminishing returns.

The main problem with his latest is that while it’s full of crowd-pleasing moments and characters, it lacks any kind of substance or direction.

Described as an ensemble comedy where the romance is between the young people of the ’60’s and the pop music that was played on pirate radio ships, it fails to really tap into what made the pirate DJs of the era, and what they stood for, so important.

And there’s no sense of the difficulty of what it took to continue broadcasting, or the context of the era in which it was set.

Rather, Curtis has created a good-time movie that’s horrendously self-indulgent, way too long (it runs over two hours) and which also feels fairly rudderless in terms of direction. It also takes some obvious liberties with historical fact.

The plot, as such, concerns the comings and goings – mostly sexual – of a ship full of DJs on board the vessel Radio Rock. Included among the line-up is newcomer Carl (Tom Sturridge), who has been sent on board as a rite-of-passage by his mother, and Simon (Chris O’Dowd), a love-struck DJ who is set to get married to the unlikely woman of his dreams (January Jones).

There’s also American DJ The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who doesn’t take kindly to the sudden return of DJ legend Gavin (Rhys Ifans), sex God Dave (Nick Frost), who has an unlikely way with women, and Quentin (Bill Nighy), the owner of the boat who attempts to keep everyone and everything afloat.

Trying to stop them from dry land, meanwhile, are government representatives Minister Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) and his assistant Twatt (Jack Davenport).

On the plus side, The Boat That Rocked does just about stay afloat by virtue of its appealing cast and some humourous situations. A rocking soundtrack also helps, which does capture the best that the era had to offer (featuring everyone from The Kinks and The Who to Hendrix and The Hollies).

But Curtis wants to have his cake and eat it and his film lacks any kind of proper structure, preferring instead to just hang out for over two hours and see what happens.

Hence, many of his key cast members are wasted, while there’s even a tendency to over-milk the jokes. Audiences may well lose track of the amount of times Branagh’s one-dimensional government stooge attempts to gain laughs from the name of his assistant.

A Titanic-style ending almost sinks the whole enterprise, too, while providing Curtis with a similarly gushing finale to the sentimental overload that brought down Love Actually. He just can’t help but manipulate your emotions to ruthless effect.

The Boat That Rocks is therefore a disappointing waste of some great British talent that may bring some fleeting cheer to audiences seeking respite from the credit crunch uncertainty, but which ultimately finds itself all at sea in some very choppy waters. Approach with caution.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 10mins
UK Release Date: April 1, 2009

  1. I would go further and say that this film is offensively sexist and misogynist, utterly pointless, brain-dead and depressing.

    Zoe    Apr 2    #
  2. This is the first time I have ever walked out of a film, was it released on April Fool's Day for a reason?

    Chloe    Apr 3    #
  3. Likewise, I’ve never left early before either.

    We stuck it out for 1.5 hrs before we could take no more of that absolute drivel.

    A triumph of marketing over the (lacking) substance of a product.

    MC    Apr 3    #
  4. Its a really, really good film. Its funny, fun and engaging. Its possibly a tad long but other than that its brilliant. I wonder what the average age of those people who don’t like it, is. I believe those which are middle aged and over, perhaps will not “get” it.

    Henry    Apr 4    #
  5. Please people this film is worth going alone for the sound track which is awesome. It's not bad it's a feel good movie which if you enter with an open mind you will actually enjoy. It's not a masterpiece, don’t get me wrong, but if you feel like lightening your mood, go see it …

    Isaac Franklin    Apr 5    #
  6. OK, it’s 1966 right? So, why are at least 16 of the soundtrack selections from subsequent years. How did this boat operate without a crew? A lost opportunity to acknowledge a truly extraordinary and significant piece of social history. Crass, patronising, embarrasing and insulting. Apparently, DJ Johnnie Walker was a technical adviser. Well, if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there. Clearly Mr Walker was

    Baz    Apr 8    #
  7. I’ve got to say that this movie showed nothing of the reality of the 1960s. Even as a comedy it could show the tension between radio DJs that existed. But instead they just ran around having sex with everyone. And everyone goes on about the soundtrack, which is actually historically incorrect. So many of those tracks were released years after 1966. It’s just pretty embarassing and disappointing really. It’s such a good setting, brilliant cast, all the elements for a really good film except the director. This was such a typical Richard Curtis film. Now people can see exactly what he’s been doing to the nation ever since Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    Claire    Apr 19    #
  8. I found “The Guru” more enlightening…I too walked for the first time out of a cinema mid movie…painful with no substance…a shame as its such a great concept..

    Todd    Apr 19    #