Reviews

The Boat That Rocked

2

Or drifted aimlessly, more like…

There’s a good news/bad news scene in Richard Curtis’ second writing-directing gig that sums Boat up. Without giving too much away, the good news involves death, so the bad news can’t be good.

Now, the ‘good’ news about the Love Actually fella’s latest is that it’s a characteristically quirky, quaint, quintessentially British cuddle-com, albeit low on unrequited romance and Hugh Grant. The bad news? Go figure…

Here, Curtis’ crew populate a ’60s pirate station broadcast from a North Sea boat. Rock is all around on Radio Rock, as are sex, drugs and larger-than-life rascals. The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is Curtis’ token hands-across-the-ocean gesture, mildly modelled on Emperor Rosko.

Dave (Nick Frost) is a tubby ball of lewdery. Ship’s captain is cravat-man Quentin, Bill Nighy’s latest elegantly raddled rocker. Rhys Ifans is Gavin the hell-raising DJ. Counter-casting? Not a bit: a “Curtis’ greatest Britcom hits” package deal is what we get, complete with a wedding, swearing and stiff Brit dancing.

In fairness, on these terms, Nighy gives good bone-droll value and the pinched “cracker thing” routine at Kenneth Branagh’s dowdy minister’s family Christmas is dryly played. But, beyond predictability, a fundamental lack of plot thrust punctures Boat’s hull.

The Dickensian attempts of Branagh’s Dormandy to outlaw pirate radio is one meagre thread; elsewhere, the reason why 18-year-old Carl’s (Tom Sturridge) mum fobs him off on Radio Rock adds only a slender plot spin. What’s left is all muddle and no melody.

Naughty nudge-wink Carry On-ish innuendos and sketch-format incidents dominate: heartbreaks, conflicts and seductions play merely as set-ups for set-pieces, generally climaxing with group celebrations that register little besides self-satisfaction. Granted, an incident-driven, ensemble-scale radio comedy could’ve been comic gold. But Curtis’ scrappy scripting falls between rushed mini-arcs and a shortfall of overall direction to slow-sinking effect. The bad news? It’s too long.

Kevin Harley

Verdict:

Curtis hangs situation and character comedy on a homage to rock’n’roll. That would be fine if it were funny, but auto-pilot Curtis prevails.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • Random

      Apr 8th 2009, 0:02

      4

      HOW THE HELL CAN THIS GET A LOWER RATING THAN THE WILSONS-CAREER-CRUSHING-MOVIE MARLEY AND ME? 2 stars? gotta be kidding me It had great british humour, great actors and acting, awesome soundtrack, a simple storyline for all the "simple" viewers out there. The only thing bad about it was it dragged on a bit towards the end. But withing the bit which dragged on i was as entertained as i was at the begining of the movie.

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    • zakmccormack

      Apr 10th 2009, 12:31

      4

      I saw this movie just the other day and no friggin way does it deserve just TWO STARS!! it deserves at least 4!! It was a very good movie and the characters in it were awesome, very entertaining from start to finish!

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    • MartinS

      Apr 10th 2009, 12:38

      4

      Richard Curtis has a plan, it is a simple plan for ordinary folk who go to the cinema to be entertained. What is the plan? Simple - Entertain Them! With The Boat That Rocked he has done just that.By putting together a cast that any comedy film director would give his eye teeth for and combining it with a script that (even if it does have the odd clunky moment) balances nostalgia,farce and drama in an undemanding but satisfying way, Curtis triumphs. The storyline is fluid and I will admit there is a bit of a sketch show feel to one or two of the set pieces but the running gags are good. As for the cast Ryhhs Ifans is as cool as they come,the Hoff holds it all together, Bill Nighy is Bill Nighy(which is NOT a critism),Kenneth Branagh redefines government tosser, and Emma Thompson is just wonderful and her sadly too brief cameo lights up the screen. There are moments when watching this that people of a certain age will be transported back to their early years and think "Jeez! I DID that!!" and to top it off the soundtrack is the best you will hear (or have heard!) in a cinema for a long time. If you want a film that entertains you, makes you jig about in your seat, laugh out loud and leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end, then this is the film for you.Well done, Richard Curtis, it has all gone to plan!

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    • MartinS

      Apr 10th 2009, 12:44

      4

      Can't understand 2 stars. A good comedy film with a great cast and an awesome soundtrack. Go see it, especially if you were between 10 and 18 years old in the mid-60's. Nice one Richard.

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    • Quentin

      Apr 10th 2009, 14:26

      1

      Hateful, lazy, smug, complacent, misogynist rubbish.

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    • Quentin

      Apr 10th 2009, 14:27

      And as MartinS posted his rating twice, thought I'd better do the same just to even things out. Don't even think about going to see this pile of dross...

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    • Quentin

      Apr 10th 2009, 14:27

      1

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    • blueberrymuffin

      Apr 10th 2009, 17:59

      4

      I just cannot understand why the hell you could possibly even entertain the thought of giving this great film 2 stars!? I am usually impressed by your reviews here at total film but in this case you're definitely unwell/deranged. This film is a heartwarming bundle of brit-com fun with a brilliant cast and the power to keep you laughing through to the very end. I thought every aspect was superbly done and without hesitation i would say it is the best comedy i have seen in the last couple of years hands down. Great stuff.

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    • ClatterOwls

      Apr 23rd 2009, 18:45

      4

      i dont understand the 2 stars rating. great british humour along side a good cast. However film did seem to go on slightly towards the end but this still doesnt pull a 2 star rating. As for the plotline what does anyone expect when the film is based on a true story...? Story was ok/good for what it was. If anyone has seen the trailor and thinks it looks good then dont let this rating stop you. Overall a good British film.

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    • duncan1964

      May 15th 2009, 14:28

      4

      If you are a fan of Richard Curtis' individual brand of schmaltz then this will really float your boat. A group of pirate radio DJ's broadcast from the North Sea in the swinging sixties, finding love and true frienshop along the way. The "Titanic" style endind nearly capsizes the whole project, and 30 minutes could easily have been trimmed, but this is a film with so much charm its hard to resist

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    • hulk68

      Jul 12th 2009, 13:03

      4

      I was astonished by your two star rating, yes there was no real plot but it was a very entertaining and enjoyable music flick. I loved it.

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    • neoriginalka

      May 27th 2010, 9:56

      3

      It's not so bad as 2 stars, but unfortunatly 4 is too big grade for it too. My opinion - 3

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    • Sheeelashela

      Feb 18th 2011, 8:29

      3

      Article is very nicely written and I am happy to find so many useful information here in the post, thanks for sharing it here. I hope you will adding more. birthday messages

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    • ChrisMac

      May 27th 2011, 11:52

      4

      A definite 'in the mood' comedy. I couldn't watch this in certain circumstances due to its length and perhaps the uncommon nature of most of the comedy in it but, suffice to say, I loved this film. The soundtrack holds it together and I found myself falling in love with the characters and the sequential layout of the movie. Watch this on a rainy day.

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