Richard Curtis is renowned for writing the kind of films he would like to watch, and judging by his major hits such as ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and ‘Bridget Jones’, they are for the most part feelgood movies. ‘The Boat That Rocked’ (TBTR) is no different.
For this, his second time in the director’s chair - ‘Love Actually’ being the first - instead of delivering his familiar brand of Romantic Comedy, Curtis brings us a musical love-fest. Inspired by pirate station Radio Caroline, the boat of the title is Radio Rock, which sidesteps strict licensing laws and gives us an insight into life on board this fictional station.
Due to pop music being banned from mainstream stations in the 1960s, a group of renegade Rock DJs broadcast from a trawler in the middle of the North Sea. To many hard-working Britons, these DJs are revered celebrities, but to others, such as Branagh and Davenport’s political characters, they are real-life pirates whom they’re eager to shut down.
As with most Curtis films, 'TBTR' features an ensemble cast - including Seymour Hoffman, Nighy, Frost, Ifans and our own O’Dowd - who together entertain the station's dedicated listenership. But unlike his previous irreverent comedies, such as ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’, the humour here is spread too thin. The DJs are zany and their madcap antics are amusing to begin with, but they become all too familiar, all too soon. The film’s dialogue has a heavier than usual dollop of cheese and a plot that is as predictable as it is implausible.
O’Dowd’s ‘IT Crowd’ co-star Katherine Parkinson is the only girl on board, the men-only policy ignored because of her character's sexual orientation. Unfortunately, she appears to be the token female lead and there’s little opportunity to make full-use of her comedic talent. There are a number of cameos from leading actresses such as Emma Thompson, ‘Quantum of Solace' star Gemma Arterton and ‘Mad Men’s January Jones. However, when it comes to women, the film’s message seems to be that women are only good for two things: cooking and sex...a memo a lot less progressive than the music on offer. For a writer who normally creates believable, well-rounded roles for women, such as Thompson’s ‘Love Actually’ character, this is disappointing.
At least Curtis got it right when he compiled the soundtrack; the music alone is reason enough to see the film. The 2-disc CD includes such 1960s and 1970s greats as The Kinks, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and the Beach Boys. There is a notable absence of The Beatles due to copyright laws - ironic given the theme of the film.
As a switch-off, feelgood film, ‘The Boat That Rocks’ ticks all the right boxes, but when compared to Curtis classics, it struggles to stay afloat.
Competition Winners: Helen Carroll, Wicklow; Ciaran Cronin, Mayo; Pat Cronin, Meath; Jen Dean, Dublin; John Deasy, Dublin; Denis Elliott, Dublin; Tony Fearon, Down; Mick Geary, Westmeath; Nici Higgins, Dublin; Barbara Keaveney, Sligo; Karen Keohane, Clare; Mark Lawlor, Dublin; Susan Lettice, Cork; Brenda Lynch, Cork; Muireann Lynch, Dublin; Marc McCabe, Dublin; Conor McMeel, Dublin; Sarah O'Mahony, Limerick; Catherine O'Neill, Kerry; Annette Power, Dublin; Michael Spellman, Galway; Jim Webster, Westmeath. Thanks to everyone who entered.