Tuesday, March 31, 2009

THE BOAT THAT ROCKED - a lot of fuss about nothing

In general, I hate movies by Richard Curtis. He has created a mythical London in which smug middle-class bastards live in pretend-bohemia and have the emotional maturity of pre-teens. In Richard Curtis movies, the sun is always shining, unless someone has just broken up with you, in which case it rains. Everything happens for the best in the best of all worlds. It's a world I neither recognise nor find entertaining. Now, all this being said, the one thing you couldn't accuse Richard Curtis movies of was being poorly structured and lacking in narrative drive. Indeed, what irritates me so much about them is that they work so much like a Rubik's Cube of dappy fops. Everyone knows everyone else - everything is connected. Imagine then, my complete surprise in finding that THE BOAT THAT ROCKED has no point and no story. (I was less surprised to find that it had no jokes.)

What Curtis is trying to do is to make a movie about an epic clash between freedom-loving pot-tastic DJs and the reactionary, heartless British establishment. He wants the stakes to be high - freedom of expression and the very future of popular music. But he also wants to make jokes about poo and have a character called "Twatt". In reality, there wasn't an epic clash over pop music. Pirate radio stations weren't doing anything illegal. When the government realised this, instead of being all skull and dagger and Bond-villain about finding clever loopholes to shut them down, they just outlawed them. Pop didn't die. The establishment didn't win. Rather, a very typically British revolution happened. Pop was co-opted by the BBC, with many of the best DJs turning up on legitimate airwaves.

Curtis mistakenly tries to turn a rather banal set of events into A Matter of Life and Death. Kenneth Branagh and Jack Davenport play the establishment stiffs trying to shut down Radio Rock. The performances are excruciating to watch - hammy, unfunny, poorly directed and under-written. Meanwhile, a motley band of British comedians plus the brilliant Rhys Darby and Philip Seymour Hoffman play the DJs aboard Radio Rock. They make misogynistic jokes, shag a lot, play some decent records and that's about it. For nearly two hours we just get montages set to 60s hits; a piss-poor attempt at emotional drama via a paternity story; and no real laughs.

All this would be bad enough but in the final twenty minutes, Curtis decides to go in a direction that is just ludicrous. I can only hope he is satirising a very famous and very rubbish movie but I suspect that he was deliberately going for an ending that is as schmaltzy as the original.

The only possible reason to see this film is for Rhys Darby. And that's not enough. Even Bill Nighy's mannered delivery is starting to get on my nerves. As for Philip Seymour Hoffman, in general, he is a genius at picking great roles in superb dramas, but this is his worst choice since the abysmal ALONG CAME POLLY.

THE BOAT THAT ROCKED is on release in the UK and opens next week in Australia and New Zealand. It opens on April 16th in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. It opens on April 30th in Russia; on May 1st in Estonia; in May 6th in Belgium, France and Iceland. It opens in Spain on May 29th; on June 5th in Bulgaria; on June 11th in Italy and Hungary; on June 19th in Turkey; on July 30th in the Czech Republic; in Argentina, Brazil and the USA on August 28th.

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