Review: The Boat That Rocked (2009)

The Boat That Rocked (2009)

Directed by: Richard Curtis | 136 minutes | comedy, drama, music, romance | Actors: Gemma Arterton, Philip Seymour-Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wisdom, January Jones, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Jack Davenport, Talulah Riley, Tom Sturridge, Chris O’Dowd, Katherine Parkinson, Rhys Darby Ralph Brown, Olegar Fedoro, Sinead Matthews, Stephen Moore, Amanda Fairbank-Hynes, Tom Brooke, Caroline Boulton, Laurence Richardson, Will Adamsdale, Kristofer Gummerus, Olivia Llewellyn, Ike Hamilton, Duncan Foster, Francesca Longrigg

New Zealand native Richard Curtis took the director’s chair for the second time in his life for ‘The Boat that Rocked’. The first session resulted in the successful comedy ‘Love Actually’. His modest output does not make Curtis, who has worked for years from England, a novice. He gained fame with screenplays for TV comedies such as “Blackadder” and “Mister Bean”, and for romkoms such as ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and ‘Notting Hill’. In these romkoms he combined British humor with American sentiment, a combination that resulted in artistic and commercial success. ‘The Boat that Rocked’ follows a different track. Romance is hard to find and it doesn’t get sentimental. Not very enjoyable either.

The biggest flaw of this rocking comedy is its lack of plot. The film tells about the adventures of a group of radio pirates and about a minister who wants to silence them. The fact that the minister is very rarely seen is the least of the problems. More annoyingly, the plans to force the pirates ashore have no dramatic impact on life on board. As a result, ‘The Boat that Rocked’ bumps from anecdote to anecdote, with no direction and no idea. Unfortunately, most of the anecdotes are of the corny kind – fat men in their bare asses, old hippies who would rather drown than interrupt The Grateful Dead – and the characters are too sketchy to make up for this lack.

The humor of ‘The Boat that Rocked’ doesn’t stop there either. Most jokes clearly bear a Curtis stamp, but that stamp is now quite worn. Even more irritating is the typical disc jockey humour, the kind that might do well in a traffic jam on the A4 but completely kills the screen on the screen. Ambiguous remarks, silly puns, idiotic radio plays, that sort of thing.

Fortunately, the acting is of a high level and the musical is also good, with nice songs by The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks. Yet it is striking that the love for music, which splashed off the canvas in films such as ‘Almost Famous’ and ‘High Fidelity’, is usually missing here. The fact that the disc jockeys prefer to listen to themselves rather than to music adds to the level of reality. Nevertheless, ‘The Boat that Rocked’ is hardly seaworthy. Good music, good actors, mediocre film.

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