The Boat That Rocked

As I have loads and loads of reviews to catch up on, I thought I’d focus on Richard Curtis’ latest as it’s fresh in my mind. Rock on!

The Boat That Rocked (2009)

I like Richard Curtis. I think his witty writing typifies what I think of when I think of British comedy. After all, he helped to give us the brilliant “Blackadder”. However, his latest stuff has been a bit hit-and-miss. I mean, “Love Actually” was alright, but hardly groundbreaking.

“Welcome to the boat of love”

As the ‘60s get into their musical stride, the stuffy old BBC are only playing 45 minutes of pop and rock every day. However, pirate radio stations in the North Sea, like Radio Caroline Rock, have taken it upon themselves to flood the airwaves with rock and naughty banter 24 hours a day. The plot is pretty decent. The very notion of pirate radio sums up the rebellious feeling of the time. It’s basically the Sixties on a boat. In terms of actors, nobody can be accused of turning in a duff performance, which is a feat in itself considering the size of the main cast. I thought Philip Seymour Hoffman was brilliant as The Count, adding a real sense of fun and later, emotional depth to the film. However, the stand-out performance for me was Chris O’Dowd’s Simon who is easily the most likable of the motley crew of DJs. He gets some choice lines and moments that garner genuine sympathy. The scene where he is dumped by his wife (for a mere 17 hours) is a masterclass in what I call “funny pain”- a time when you feel empathy towards a character, but are still laughing your head off. Hats off to Mr. O’Dowd- he puts in a really impressive performance. I didn’t warm to Rhys Ifans’ character much as I get the feeling he wasn’t as rounded as the other characters. Whilst characters like The Count, Carl and especially Simon are constructed carefully, Ifans’ Gavin is an unfunny, one-dimensional cartoon character.

Actually, talking of one-dimensonal- Kenneth Branagh’s character of Dormandy was really boring. Just because he’s the bad guy trying to shut down pirate radio, it doesn’t mean you have to make him the most clichéd, stuffed shirt type character ever. Nearly every scene with him and his deputy (I’ll talk about him in a minute) is tired and predictable. So much so, that you believe that they couldn’t possibly go for the lame joke you imagine they’re going for and then they do anyway. It’s like setting a scene with a man walking down a corridor with a banana peel at the end. You believe that something unexpected will happen before he reaches the peel, therefore subverting the general expectation, but it doesn’t. The man slips and you’re just left in a stunned silence before punching the person next to you out of sheer annoyance.

Right, the deputy- played by the great Jack Davenport. Before I tell you the running gag, cast your mind back to “Blackadder”. Remember the brilliant running gag about Darling’s surname, making every order Melchett gave seem more like a doting husband sweet-talking his wife? Yeah. Well, we have the same gag here except the character’s name is (sigh) “Twatt”. Curtis seems like he’s doing a pale imitation of himself and it’s frustrating to see.

“We have their testicles in our hands, Twatt, and it feels good.”

“The Boat That Rocked” is a very entertaining film if a little overlong. It’s got some decent characters, funny lines and a nice sense of fun threaded through it all. However, I can’t help but get the feeling that the otherwise brilliant closing 30 mins were tainted slightly by the preachy message in text at the end. I just sat there thinking “Really? Is that the point you’ve been trying to make?” when I should have been wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes. Still, it’s decent enough and the soundtrack kicks arse.

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