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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Boat that Rocked (2009) (2016 Reissue)


Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost and Kenneth Branagh
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 14 March 2016

Its 1966 and the rebels of radio are pumping out rock and roll music stationed on boats outside of Britain’s territorial waters. When young Carl gets kicked out of school he is delighted to be sent to spend time with his godfather Quentin, who just happens to own a pirate radio station.

The Boat That Rocked (2009. 2 hrs, 9 min, 37 sec) is a comedy film written and directed by Richard Curtis. The film drew mixed reviews and ended as a commercial failure in the cinema.

Like most Curtis films, the movie is resplendent with talent and Curtis once more provides a layered narrative. Unfortunately, unlike Love Actually (2003) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) where a fractured structure only added to the film's strengths, Boat is more of a slightly uneven rambling affair.

Our guide through the strange machinations of the boat and its DJ’s is Carl (Tom Sturridge). His godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy) introduces him to the assorted characters which inhabit the boat, including The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Doctor Dave (Nick Frost) and ‘Simple’ Simon Swafford (Chris O'Dowd). Pitted against them is Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) a minister intent on closing down the station.

Part of the story revolves around the battle between Quentin and Dormandy’s subordinate, Twatt (Jack Davenport), partly the film is about Carl meeting and falling in love with Quentin’s niece, Marianne (Talulah Riley) and lastly the dawning realisation, on Carl's part that his mother (Emma Thompson) has sent him to the ship because one of its inhabitant may well be his missing father.

Although well intentioned, the film is too long and lacks the required focus to carry off the story. I guess the problem is that unlike his previous films where there are overlapping stories, each affecting the other, giving a structure where pretty much anyone could find someone to root for, here the majority of the actors remain in a single location, the boat. Also, sad to say, Tom Sturridge, at this point in his career does not have the require skill or weight to carry a film of this length.

There are a couple of extras on the disc beginning with some deleted scenes and ending with a full length commentary with Richard Curtis, producer Hilary Bevin Jones, Nick Frost and Chris O’Dowd. Even if the film does not make you laugh, the commentary is likely to. For audio you get an English track as well as an English descriptive audio and Magyar (Hungarian) and a whole slew of subtitles.

So, it’s an unusual misfire for Curtis. Given the talent it should have been great but maybe the film was cursed by having more sophisticated ancestors, a level it couldn’t and probably was never designed to emulate.


Charles Packer

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