Netflix UK film review: The Boat That Rocked
James R | On 16, May 2015
Director: Richard Curtis
Cast: Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rhys Darby, Rhys Ifans, Kenneth Branagh, Jack Davenport, Chris O’Dowd, Tom Sturridge
Watch The Boat That Rocked online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Richard Curtis makes a huge effort to recreate his favourite era of illicit vinyl and pirate radio in The Boat That Rocked, but not as much it takes to watch it. Cranking out its two-hour tune with a cast of colourful characters, it’s a film of two distinct halves: waiting to laugh for one hour, and not laughing very much for the next.
There are some giggles dotted across the deck – step forward Rhys Darby’s uncool Angus and Chris O’Dowd’s simple Simon. But as for The Count (Hoffman), Curtis’ Emperor Rosko, Big Dave (Frost) and shock-jock Gavin (a muted Rhy Ifans), there are surprisingly few titters between them. Held together by cravat-wearing Quentin (Nighy), captain of “Radio Rock”, this motley crew of scallywags rejoice in their offshore hijinx. Joining them is Quentin’s god son, Carl (Sturridge), a boy yet to come of age who doesn’t know who his father is.
Back on Blighty’s mainland, the thin-lipped Minister Dormandy (Branagh) is trying to shut down pirate radio for good. Looking for loopholes to make music illegal, he’s helped along by his assistant, Twatt (Davenport). Yes, Twatt; a joke lovingly borrowed from Curtis’ earlier work on Blackadder, and a name that doesn’t raise a laugh.
Curtis clearly loves his material, and the production design is excellent, but if you can’t get a guffaw from this talented ensemble cast, there’s something amiss. Running around like naughty cabin boys, the result is a string of sketches without much of a narrative with even fewer gags. Plumbing the depths of his back catalogue, the Notting Hill director even crams a wedding in there. The rest is closer to a funeral.
The Boat That Rocked is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.