Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Boat That Rocked (aka Pirate Radio) (2009)

I feel like I've been waiting a long time to see this movie- it took forever to come out in the US and I believe I was in Germany when it finally did. Spurred on by my enjoyment of The Runaways I've been looking into more period music-centric films and The Boat That Rocked fit right in! Written and directed by Richard Curtis, the film focuses on a ship anchored off the English coast broadcasting rock music, wacky dj's, and local news 24/7 in the 1960s, when no official British station played modern rock.

Expelled from private school, Carl (Tom Sturridge) is sent to live with his godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy), the manager of the Radio Rock pirate station. He hangs out with a bunch of kooky dj's, including reigning cool dude The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), ladies' man Doctor Dave (Nick Frost), and smooth-talking Gavin Cavinagh (Rhys Ifans), all of whom seek to teach him about women and rock music. Meanwhile hyper-conservative prick Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) vows to make rock radio illegal and will stop at nothing to take our heroes down.

The Boat That Rocked (inexplicably released as "Pirate Radio" in the US) doesn't offer any deeper meanings or life lessons, nor does it attempt an accurate portrayal of the real people and events it draws from. It simply seeks to entertain and rock out, and it succeeds on both counts. The very large cast is quite impressive and incredibly enjoyable, with great turns from Hoffman, Nighy, and Frost, plus smaller-but-memorable appearances from Rhys Darby, Emma Thompson, January Jones, and Chris O'Dowd. I'm a big fan of Rhys Ifans and while he's really great as the ultra-smooth, mysterious Gavin, I wish he'd had a larger part. He's the kind of character who's talked about and hyped up a lot, appearing halfway through the film, and then not really utilized. But considering the size of the cast, it's not that surprising.

The script is funny and entertaining, offering easygoing conversations and unexpected laughs. There's not much actual plot, so the focus remains on the likable characters and their interactions. The soundtrack is of course superb, with lots of great tunes from The Kinks, The Who, The Turtles, etc (though some aren't quite era-appropriate), and a plethora of dancey montages (you can never have too many). With the addition of totally rad, abundantly colored outfits, I was once again reminded that England in the 60's was just such a cool setting.

It's incredibly dude-centric, but they're all pretty likable and funny dudes, so that's ok. Most of the women characters weren't given much development, but in such a light-hearted comedy with so few women to begin with, it didn't distract that much. I'd say all in all The Boat That Rocked is just a fun flick with great music and a swell cast. Nothing too special, but it definitely kept me smiling.



  1. I think there generally isn't enough said for movies that aren't afraid to stand up and be counted as entertainment first and foremost. Steven Spielberg said that if you want to educate an audience "you gotta get their attention first". And coming from Steven Spielberg I'd be inclined to take that to heart.

  2. This is my movie, okay? If I could marry a movie, it'd be this movie. Sure, I'd have multiple affairs with other movies, some love shorts, whatever, but at the end of the day, I'd always come home to my love, The Boat That Rocked. Now, I'd tolerate his/her American phase, but knowing it, to, shall pass.


  3. I saw this movie in theaters a few months ago with a friend who came out of the theater saying "This is EASILY in my top ten now!" I didn't feel exactly the same way, but it's so much fun! Absolutely impossible to deny it! And now I just want to watch it again.

  4. Ronan: I totally agree. There's nothing wrong with pure entertainment- I think a lot of people take movies too seriously.

    Simon: Wow, that's beautiful!

    Nerdvampire: Ooh I'm kind of jealous you saw it in a theater! Glad you dug it!

  5. This is the first mostly positive review I've read, and it convinces me I have to see this. I'm a sucker for Bill Nighy and Philip Seymour Hoffman, so why not? They can't be BAD together.

  6. This is one of those films that I just enjoyed. And through a friend I got to see it's original British version (not sure how Pirate Radio is different), and just had myself a hell of a time.

  7. M: If you're a fan of those guys this should definitely be enjoyable to you! I hope you like it.

    Univarn: I don't know if there is a difference between the UK and US versions. I had assumed it was just a name change, but on imdb it lists an "original version" that was 135 minutes as opposed to the 116 minute DVD I watched. Don't know if the shorter version was the general theater release or edited down for the US. I didn't check for any special features or extended versions on the DVD. Hmm.

  8. I'm the only one here that hated this movie. i was so ridiculously bored throughout the entire thing. The main character had no appeal to me at all.

    I'm glad you are all enjoying it though. To each their own.

  9. Its fun, and has a great soundtrack, just could have done so much better.

  10. This movie is really quite fun. Sure, it's not a masterpiece but it's so charming (why isn't Tom Sturridge in more films) and definitely one worthy your time. I'm glad you're a fan.