Richard Curtis has a way of making his rubbish ideas feel warm, cosy & mildly amusing. His style is almost like comfort food; there are people you like, doing things that look naughty but funny naughty, they sound witty and songs you like play over the top of everything. Like all good comfort food, too much of it and you feel sick. It’s often filled with regret and you wish you hadn’t started eating it.
The Boat that Rocked (weirdly re-titled Pirate Radio in the US) is a prime example of this. We see funny and talented people on screen together, and very occasionally they get to say funny things. It feels good for a bit until you realise this film has nothing more to offer.
We join Carl, a kid sent to live on a boat-based radio station in order to circumvent the UK broadcasting laws in the 60s. He hangs out with a bunch of DJs who play great records all the time. Nothing else happens.
I’m not asking for substance, just plot. There’s no story at the core of this, and I realise there doesn’t always have to be, but here it’s a big problem. If you can’t string something together, then the jokes had better start coming in thick and fast. They don’t. Instead we get a poor old Philip Seymour Hoffman doing his best to deliver some horse crap about free speech.
Kenneth Branagh is turned into Carry-On-Hitler as the government minister tasked by the PM to take down pirate radio. Bill Nighy phones in his ‘Love Actually’ performance, in a slightly different costume. It’s a whole load of nothing.
I’m being a little too hard on The Boat that Rocked. It’s not offensively bad, and it’s funny in parts (ok, part). It is comfort food after all. However like so much of Curtis’ work, it could have been so much better. This is a mix of performers I’m happy to see on screen, I just feel like it’s in the wrong hands.