Richard Curtis surely owns the rosiest glasses in the film business. According to him, the UK is a gentle, slightly eccentric place, where good things happen to good people and well-mannered chaps generally get the girl. And, despite the inclusion of brash American Philip Seymour Hoffman and a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack, The Boat That Rocked is cut from the same warm and fuzzy cloth. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its charms, but it would be nice to see Curtis step out of his comfort zone.
Set during the swinging 1960s, the film’s focus is a pirate radio station broadcasting from a boat in the North Sea. As the eclectic group of DJs, including big boss Quentin (Bill Nighy), The Count (Hoffman), Doctor Dave (Nick Frost) and Gavin Cavanagh (Rhys Ifans), bring rock music to the teens of Britain, so they attract the ire of right wing MP Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) who makes it his mission to shut them down.
Of course, anyone with even a vague awareness of cultural history – or anyone with a radio – will know that even though the pirate stations of the 60s no longer survive, they did change the face of mainstream British broadcasting forever. So there’s no dramatic tension in writer/director Curtis’s latest offering; instead, the narrative revolves around the exploits of the DJs on their claustrophobic confines – their day jobs giving them iconic status, a steady stream of girls providing romping entertainment.
The hugely likeable cast, including many familiar faces, give the whole thing a feel-good factor that’s hard to sneer at, while the involvement of the ever-excellent Hoffman adds extra watchability and credibility. But there is a sense that we’ve seen it all before from Curtis; this is essentially Love Actually-on-sea, and anyone who can’t stomach his special brand of happy-ever-after won’t find much to tempt them here. 3 stars
The commentary with Curtis, producer Hilary Bevan Jones and stars Nick Frost and Chris O’Down can be found at the centre of both the DVD and Blu-ray release, and both formats also contain deleted scenes. On the Blu-Ray you’ll also find several featurettes looking at various aspects of the film. 2.5 stars (DVD) / 3 stars (Blu-ray)
Stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost
Director Richard Curtis
Format DVD & Blu-ray
Released September 7