Film / An offshore success

 
 

If nautical nonsense be your thing, then Breffni O’Sullivan recommends The Boat that Rocked.

WELCOME TO BRITAIN in the 1960s. While the kingdom was enveloped in the winds of change brought about by the cultural and sexual revolution, radios could seldom bellow out the true sound of the people. The government-controlled BBC limited itself to presenting all but 45 minutes of pop music a day, then deferring to jazz and current affairs. In the true spirit of counter-culture, the backlash of this lead to the genesis of pirate radio, which endeavoured to give the people exactly what they wanted; raucous rock and roll; the soundtrack to a liberal generation which the powers-that-be sought to qualm.

The Boat That Rocked, written and directed by Richard Curtis (Blackadder, Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral) in a rare departure from his staple of romantic comedies, tells the story of the Rated Arrrrrr superstars of Radio Rock, a pirate radio station broadcasting 24 hours a day from an anchored freighter floating in the North Sea.

“The Boat That Rocked suffers somewhat from having too many solid characters and too short a timeframe to develop them”

The year is 1966 and pirate stations, thanks to a legal loophole, are beaming pure rock and roll into 25 million homes across the UK much to the chagrin of the traditionalist British government, represented by a brilliant Kenneth Branagh as Minister Dormandy; whose sole mission is to eradicate the rambunctious rock rebels.

As well as Branagh’s sterling performance, the cast overall are tremendous, spearheaded by Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Doubt) as a self-professed brash, bold, American god of the airwaves; ‘The Count’, Bill Nighy as the splendiferous boss Quentin and Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Little Nicky) as the titillating heartthrob Gavin.

These much-loved stars are flanked by the brilliant Nick Frost and the familiar duo of Chris O’Dowd and Katherine Parkinson (The I.T. Crowd), among many others.

However, even listing these top-notch performances presents a problem. Weighing in at just over two hours, The Boat That Rocked suffers somewhat from having too many solid characters and too short a timeframe to develop them. It seems as though the concept might have worked a little better as a TV series, and there is certainly enough material in the Radio Caroline saga, on which the film is predominantly based, to merit one.

The script is mostly solid, but falls down in parts due to both the over-condensation of the plot to fit the running time and the addition of a romantic subplot involving the admittedly fantastic Chris O’Dowd, which somehow manages to seem both essential and tacked-on at the same time. On top of this, Curtis’ direction is quite mediocre.

However, do not let this detract from the film, which regains ground solely for the superb soundtrack. The Boat That Rocked is pure fun and it’s hard not to smile throughout, while you chuckle at the cast quite blatantly having a fantastic time.

Rating : 3/5

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