Director: Richard Curtis
Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Tom Sturridge, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, Chris O’Dowd and Kenneth Branagh
Plot: A pirate news radio station out at sea is determined to play rock and roll, even if it means breaking the law.
The quickest way to make someone proud to be British is through our music. We are proud of it, especially in the 60s where we brought the Beatles to the table. This movie should come with a warning label that lets you know that you will be singing and dancing to anything resembling an old classic for the next week or two.
The story shows us the character of Carl, who is sent to this pirate radio ship that broadcasts rock and roll illegally with his godfather, who runs the show, Quentin. He soon learns that his biological father might be one of the DJs too, so attempts to track them down. All the while, Kenneth Branagh and the government attempt to track down this pirate ship, so they can get rid of it once and for all, returning the United Kingdom back to its British ways, despite everyone at home being on the side of rock and roll.
The thing about ‘The Boat That Rocked’ is that the story doesn’t really matter. Sure, there is this ‘who is Carl’s father’ subplot and the government are always getting that little bit closer to catching these guys, but that feels shoved in the background more than an active feature of the movie. I was reminded of a TV series in the sense that we were introduced to these characters and the movie kind of just explored them, tying up the ‘story’ every now and again, as though they needed to squeeze in the bare minimum. In all honesty, I think that this idea would have worked better as a series. Most critics marked it down for too much length and although that didn’t bother me as much as it bothered them, I think a season basically fixes all of the little dilemmas this film runs into.
OK, so the story feels more like window-dressing than a constant here, but it’s not as though you are going to hate watching this film. We are introduced to all of these wacky characters, as Richard Curtis films like doing, and he just lets he script take them where it needs to go. If the film did focus on the story, we wouldn’t have fun scenes like Nick Frost trying to trick a groupie into having sex with Carl instead of him, by switching the lights off. In many ways, this film turns into a montage of great songs and gags concerning these characters. Sure, as a film I have to criticise it for that, but at the same time, I was laughing and appreciating everything Richard Curtis did with the material, putting me in an uncomfortable position as a reviewer. It’s not even as though I am living off the emotional rush like Les Miserables and Man of Steel mesmerised me with. I watched this film two years ago and I am still thinking back on it, with a fond smile.
Let’s talk about the characters. Curtis regular Bill Nighy basically adds onto his crazy rock and roll persona that we saw in Love Actually. He owns every moment of screen time he is given. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is one of the more memorable characters, as the American guy who is a little different from everyone else (every Richard Curtis movie needs a single American in it, of course). The star of the show for me was Chris O’Dowd, as I was really into the IT Crowd at the time and I enjoyed to see him step up to the plate of a big motion picture like this. Kenneth Branagh only ever takes roles that he admires and thinks he can work with, so his name on this film pretty much guarantees it quality. He is hilarious as the proper, uptight Brit, who has a fantastic scene where we have an insight into his idea of Christmas spirit. And then there is Tom Sturridge. He is meant to be the main character, our nervous male lead into this world, but here he is lost in the star power that surrounds him. With all of this talent bursting from the film, the main character ends up becoming the most forgettable part of the film.
Final Verdict: While a little unconventional, this movie is still funny, loud and has one of the greatest soundtracks in movie history.