I usually take some care over my movie reviews, but I’m not going to waste time on appraising The Boat That Rocked in any depth. This crock of shit isn’t worth the effort.
My best hope for this post is that it might provide a community service – with any luck I might spare a moviegoer or two the ticket price, tedium and irritation I went through watching a long, long 2 hours and 14 minutes of this dross. Come to think about it, this review is probably too late to accomplish its mission, having been sitting around growing mildew while I was engaged in other projects and too despondent to make time to finish it. Oh well, maybe I’ll save someone the cost of renting the video – and the time they would have squandered watching it.
You’d have thought this movie was half way home before the cameras started to roll. The history of pirate radio in 60s UK, on which TBTR is based (loosely!), is inbuilt with the sort of conflict and comedy potential that is a dramatist’s dream. In one corner, you’ve got UK rock and roll going through its golden era and a massive audience denied local commercial radio coverage by archaic UK laws, champing at the bit for American-style 24 hour pop programming… with the pirate radio ships anchored offshore in international waters (and therefore out of the reach of UK legislation) giving them what they want. In the other, are the arch-conservative political forces that are determined to shut down the pirates, by fair means or foul, and save the ignorant masses from the subversive menace of the devil’s music.
David vs Goliath in a rocknroll setting, in other words, with the class and socio-cultural clashes of the 60s thrown in. Add to the mix bands like The Kinks, Stones, Who, Troggs, Procol Harum and Cream plus some imports like The Turtles (surely one of the most underrated bands of the 60s), Beach Boys, Hendrix, Otis and Downunder’s magnificent Easybeats, and you have a heady mix that should have guaranteed a groovy movie and a box office hit.
Alas, The Boat That Rocked is an opportunity utterly and incompetently missed. The movie opens with the irresistibly rockin’ riff of The Kinks’ classic You Really Got Me, and I do confess, dear reader, to being caught up in a wave of faux-nostalgia at this point that had me primed to enjoy the ride to the end (faux because I was too young to meaningfully experience the mid-60s as they unfurled). But the mighty soundtrack was not enough to save this stinker – not nearly enough. It soon became painfully obvious that the writing was weak, the jokes unfunny, the characters irritating poseurs and unconvincing cartoonish eccentrics rather than colourful 60s counterculture heroes.
30 minutes in, and the whole shebang had collapsed into farce – and unfunny farce, at that. The bloody thing goes on for an eternity, somehow getting worse and worse, until it hits rock bottom with the cheapest, tackiest Hollywood ending imaginable, followed by a stupid full cast song-and-dance finale. Grawk!
Careers should fall over this piece of crap. Not only does it fail on every level as entertainment (the music excepted) – it is poorly researched.
Example 1: Bill Nighy offers a young newcomer to the boat a “spliff” – that term was not around in the 60s, you twits. Joint, number, reefer, dope, weed, Bob Hope, grass, ganja – the writers were spoiled for choice of 60s marijuana slang but still they fucked up!
Example 2: One of the characters addresses another as “dude”. Ferchissake, that didn’t surface for 2 decades after the 60s – at least!
Example 3: Someone tells someone else to “shut the fuck up.” Again, that delicate turn o phrase was not part of 60s lingo.
Those sorts of oversights are just lazy. It beats me how Bill Nighy didn’t pick up on gaffs like these. He was around in those days. Then again, you know what they say about not remembering the 60s…maybe Bill was there in a BIG way (nudge nudge, wink wink).
I didn’t expect much of this movie, to be honest – and boy were my suspicions confirmed bigtime – but the presence of one of my favourite actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman, gave me some hope. What were you thinking, Phil? What o what?
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