The Boat the Rocked is garish, jolly rumbustuous and profoundly nostalgic for anyone who ever tuned their tranny radio under the bedclothes, or owned a Dansette. Its cast of misfits and Barons of Beat is as superb a gang of British character actors as you will ever find bobbing around in the North Sea twenty miles off Lowestoft. Bill Nighy is a true diamond geezer. You even get Ken and Em chucked in for good measure, ranged appropriately on opposing sides. The plot is simple, perhaps a tad too simple, but whaddaya experct? King Lear? The film also has an authentic sixties coming of age subtext. The music is the Right Stuff, served up immaculately, although one may wonder why the needle never skipped, even as das boot crashdived.
I should also lay cards on the table and say I am, at heart, a Richard Curtis fan. Why shouldn't people make films about sweetness and light? However, sadly, something was missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on what. Did everyone enjoy themselves just a bit too much making it? Is the plot just too twiggy? Are the waters too shallow? Is there, in fact, a natural limit to the fun that can be had out of a bunch of bachelor boys bobbing around on the ocean in NHS specs with rubber johnnies but no girls?
Back in the 60’s popstars made uniquely British teenage “keep your hair on, daddy-o” middle class romps. The concept took a bunch of average grammar school kids — bubbly, rebellious in small ways, and slightly misunderstood. Their dim restrictive parents always turned out OK in the end. For a few years this was a surprisingly popular and compelling formula, for it reflected real feelings. “Come on kids! We’re all going on a summer holiday, in spite of our parents. There’s plenty of pop, we’ve got a real guitar, and we know some girls who may want to join us.” These movies were painfully, authentically, 1960’s. It irks me to admit it, but Cliff Richard was probably the master of the genre.
Nobody has been bold enough to make such a movie for at least thirty years, so I applaud the effort, and enjoyed the show. For all its may excellencies, TBTR is probably something of a niche product. It ain’t no Four Weddings, nor is it quite Mama Mia for Males, but if you like the basic pitch and don’t mind the clichéd script and plot, it yield an enjoyable evening out. Another three and a half out of five...