Film critic Michael Joyce isn't swayed by The Boat That Rocked

PUBLISHED: 14:11 16 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:06 07 September 2010

The Boat that Rocked. (15.) Director Richard Curtis. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Tom Sturridge, Kenneth Branagh. 129 mins Two star rating It s one thing for Richard Curtis to take up two and a quarter hours on ei

The Boat that Rocked. (15.) Director Richard Curtis. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Tom Sturridge, Kenneth Branagh. 129 mins

Two star rating

It's one thing for Richard Curtis to take up two and a quarter hours on eight interlocking stories but spending the best part of Watchmen on some blokes playing records on a boat is just ridiculous.

The latest Curtis project sees him trying something new, a loose ensemble comedy about the glory years of pirate radio in the mid 60s. It's a great subject - in 1966, the year of Revolver, Pet Sounds and Paint It Black, there is virtually no rock or pop music broadcast in Britain and every-body listens to the pirate station broadcasting on the North Sea.

The film opens with the manager of fictional Radio Rock (Nighy) welcoming his young godson Carl (Sturridge) aboard and through him we are introdu-ced to the various DJs and char-acters on the boat, like The Count (Hoffman) and Dr Dave (Frost.)

With the opening pleasantries dispensed with you wait for The Formula - that tight, yes manipulative, narrative structure that Curtis is so adept at - to snap into action and yank us through events. But it never snaps. The only real plot mechanism is the attempts of a Labour minister (Branagh) and his assistant, Twatt, to find ways to outlaw them.

All the on shore scenes are just awful. Branagh's character is such a caricature priggish authority figure he could have wandered in from Pink Floyd's The Wall.

Out at sea though, events are drifting amiably along. Curtis has assembled a really great cast, not just the Names but also the people you have never heard of, and everybody (Hoffman and Frost in particular) seems to have something to contribute.

Early on we are introduced to a character called Thick Dave (Tom Brooke) who has a decent set piece offering up obtuse clues in a guessing game. You expect him to be a big supporting character but he's barely heard from again. And that's the same for everybody else - somebody will have a big scene and then won't be seen again for 20 minutes.

It was bold of Curtis to try to work outside of his comfort zone but it does emphasis just how tight that comfort zone is. It may look (a bit) like the Sixties but doesn't sound or feel like the sixties.

It's nice, there's an air of fun to it, but it's mostly not funny - and it's mostly not funny for a rather long time.

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