The Boat That Rocked [DVD]

By Clint Morris

This boat most certainly does rock – but it’s not because of the choppy waters it’s anchored in. Nope, this thing sways because of the crew of the vessel, seemingly all intent on keeping Richard Curtis’s latest labour of love from being anything but smooth sailing for all involved. After all, who wants to watch an unexciting boat trip, right?

Life-jackets definitely required here (and possibly, a new change of underwear – and not because anyone will be walking the plank).

A rock’n'roll fuelled history lesson armed with killer dialogue, an enjoyable workforce and a large milk-crate full of terrific music, “The Boat That Rocked” tells of one of man’s lesser-known voyages – the mission to keep rock music alive in the 60s, via illegitimate radio stations floating not-so-silently out at sea.

By his own admission, British writer/director Richard Curtis has made a living out of making modern-day love films. But unlike Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually, this one doesn’t concentrate on a passionate affair between man and woman but more the disc jockey’s love of music – and giving it to the people.

Radio Rock (said to be based on real-life vessel Radio Caroline) is a thriving pirate radio station operating in the waters of under the guidance of captain Quentin (Bill Nighy) . It’s eclectic staff includes celebrated Yank D.J ‘The Count‘ (Philip Seymour Hoffman, seemingly reprising his role as Lester Bangs from “Almost Famous” and enjoying it just as much the second time around), chunky womanizer Dave (Nick Frost), rehabilitated wild-man Gavin (Rhys Ifans), terminal sad-sack Simon (Chris O’Dowd), the dense Thick Kevin (Tom Brooke), New Zealander Angus (Rhys Darby) and young ladies-man Mark (Tom Wisdom). They all seemingly live for their audience – and have little to no life outside of the ship. And that’s just the way the unruly bunch would like it to stay – but as Bob Dylan sung, the times they are-a-changing.

When newly expelled highschooler Carl (or ‘Young Carl’ as he’s soon to be known) is curiously sent to the vessel as chastisement by his ‘once wild’ mum (Emma Thompson in a cameo), he not only gets to experience the joys of sex, drugs & rock and roll, but friendship. He learns jack-all about how to use the cart machine or clean the needle on the record player, but he does find his place.

The stiff Minister Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh), and his newly-appointed sidekick Twat (Jack Davenport), plan on spoiling everyone’s fun though. By the end of the year, Dormandy wants every pirate radio station off-the-air – and he’ll stop at nothing to see he (and his crony) succeed.

Sink or swim, the crew of Radio Rock aren’t going down without a fight.

It’s probably a given that a former radio announcer like myself was always going to enjoy a film that studies the wacky early wireless activities of the LBJ-era (And unless you count taking the station off-air for twenty minutes or over-using sound effect tapes, I weren’t half as wild as those behind the panel in the film) but had I never cued a record in my life I’m almost positive I’d still go gaga for this divine flick. It has a little bit of something for everyone – not just those with an ability to cross to the news at the hour – but largely an infectiously-fun nature that’s hard to resist.

The performances (Ifans, Sturridge and Hoffman are the standouts), the characters (what a fabulously hilarious bunch they are!), the pacing of the thing (runs over two hours and yet it flies!), the effective blend of humour and drama – it all combines beautifully here. Curtis rarely makes a wrong turn here.

An early contender for not only of the best comedies of the year, but one of the best films of 2009, flag down “The Boat That Rocked” today!

Extras

Rather squat extras package – commentary by cast and crew; 11 deleted scenes – but the movie more than makes up for it!