The Boat That Rocked

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(2009)

ITV1: Friday 28 August, 10.40pm

1966… England swings like a pendulum do, but the BBC’s sniffy attitude to pop music means Britain’s airwaves are missing a beat. Until pirate broadcasters set up ship in the North Sea. Farcically fictionalised account of Radio Caroline, flagship of the pirate radio boats, towed away for salvage in 1967 and missed nary a day since. Because the BBC instantly gave Britain’s pop kids Radio 1. Richard Curtis assembled a fantastic cast – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, Kenneth Branagh, and some bright TV faces (Flight of the Conchords’ manager Rhys Darby, IT Crowd couple Chris O’Dowd and Katherine Parkinson, and Don Draper’s trophy wife in Mad Men, January Jones) – for a clumsy, montage-mad comedy that’s got everything except a feasible script. Not one scene faithfully evokes Britain in the 60s. (Housewives dancing in supermarket aisles to pirate radio? I don’t think so.) And the dialogue’s so dodgy it sounds improvised. The banter is puerile, the pranks pathetic, the political satire fatuous, the Titanic-cum-Dunkirk ending a stunning insult. (Not to James Cameron’s dumb movie, but to history, and to any sense of pride England has in herself.) This film is not just a mess, it’s bereft of wit. Literally witless. Every move it makes is either thumpingly obvious or appallingly sentimental (in the most monumentally misjudged scene, Elgar’s Enigma Variations accompanies the station staff’s resolution to carry on broadcasting in defiance of the government’s new law). From first till last, it rings false. Resoundingly. Of course, a miss is chin-music for a big-hitter like Curtis (Four Weddings, Notting Hill, Love Actually) and he must have been bemused at how badly Boat belly-flopped. For American consumption it not only lost 15 minutes but gained another name: Pirate Radio. Which had ’em lined up around the block, I’m sure. (Or perhaps waltzing in the shopping malls.) Considering the array of talent involved – and, let’s face it, Mr Curtis is no fool – a film this flat and phony is inexcusable. The soundtrack album might be something (snippets from 54 songs feature in the film), so long as those thick-witted DJs aren’t on board. The 55th song is Lorraine Ellison’s Stay With Me, sung by Duffy over the end credits, a terrible dirge-like cover version that sums up the decision-making throughout the entire production. It’s a disaster, one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 135min

IMDB – The Boat That Rocked

TMDB – The Boat That Rocked

Rotten Tomatoes – The Boat That Rocked

Other Showings Time & Date
TG4 Monday, 31 August at 9:30PM