Critics sink ‘Boat’

Posted by · 6:58 am · March 31st, 2009

January Jones (right) in The Boat That RockedI mentioned last week that I had reservations about Richard Curtis’s new comedy “The Boat That Rocked,” which opens here in the UK on Friday. Every inch of the film’s marketing thus far (and there’s been a lot of it) gives me the impression of a talented team trying aggressively hard to have fun, but it all looks too calculated for my liking.

And the tepid trade reviews the film is getting seem to suggest I had reason to be suspicious. Screen International strikes with the sharpest claws, going so far as to describe it as Curtis’s “personal Titanic.” (And they aren’t referring to the 1997 blockbuster, either.) Fionnula Halligan writes:

There’s no sign of anyone in charge of this bloated Working Title vessel, which lurches and leaks its way through a series of flimsy setpieces before gracelessly coming to a watery grave … Problematic 134-minute running time turns what should have been a breezy comedy about radio broadcasters on a pirate ship into a draining experience and notices/word-of-mouth are unlikely to be forgiving.

What transpires on Curtis’s Radio Rock feels historically bogus (would a DJ in 1966 really say “this will make you moist”?), if visually accurate. But what is most striking is the wasted opportunity here: surely life on the real Radio Caroline must have thrown up far more dramatic and comedic potential than Curtis is able to take on board here.

Variety is somewhat kinder, but not wildly enthused either:

Pic generally stays afloat on the strength of its characters but sometimes threatens to sink under its overlong running time and vignettish structure … After a lively opening hour, the pic starts to lose its sparkle as Curtis tries to develop the subplots at the expense of the script’s comic buoyancy; the film could easily lose a half-an-hour, to its benefit. Though the tempo picks up again in the final 40 minutes, the movie’s fragile sketch structure almost breaks under the mini-“Titanic” setpiece of the final reels.

The Hollywood Reporter pretty much echoes that view, finding charms here and there, but seizing upon the film’s overlength — and ultimately employing further sinking-ship metaphors. (Well, they were asking for it with that title.)

Given the widespread animosity toward Curtis in his home country, I’m counting on an even harsher reception from the UK press in a few days’ time. (Time Out has already got stuck in: “cripplingly self-conscious and self-satisfied,” an “overlong, poorly paced farrago” … you get the idea.)

Universal and Working Title will probably be hoping the five-month gap between the film’s UK and US release dates will be enough to bury this kind of bad press. But if you had any awards hopes sailing on this particular boat, I’d disembark fast.

→ 13 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

13 responses so far

  • 1 3-31-2009 at 7:59 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Which reminds me that a nice sweeping prediction update would be necessary right about now. But…I just…don’t…WANT to.

  • 2 3-31-2009 at 8:15 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Ugh, don’t go there. Spring is here, the sun is shining, birds are chirping … it’s altogether too early for such self-punishment.

  • 3 3-31-2009 at 9:17 am

    Bernardo said...

    I think that the trailer said it all. You can take the name of Philip Seymour H. as a nominee at Oscar. It will not happen.

  • 4 3-31-2009 at 10:35 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Thanks for the brilliant insight Bernardo.

  • 5 3-31-2009 at 11:01 am

    AmericanRequiem said...

    Shame, so the falling below expectations has already begun. Kris, I was going through your contenders page and Where the Wild Things are wasn’t in consideration for best picture, actor, and sup actress. I know the latter two might be a huge stretch but what about for best picture, do you really think theres NO chance?

  • 6 3-31-2009 at 11:11 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...


  • 7 3-31-2009 at 12:28 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    If Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich and Adaptation couldn’t even pull it off, BP recognition for Where the Wild Things Are would take a miracle.

  • 8 3-31-2009 at 3:21 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    134 is indeed a bit long for such a supposedly breezy film. Shame, but I’ll still see it.

  • 9 4-01-2009 at 10:53 am

    AdamL said...

    Yeah, was hating the trailers and even the lame poster and hoping the reviews would be bad so I didn’t have to see it and they are so I don’t.

    I actually like Curtis’ stuff as well – even Love Actually – but this looked a little bit too much like a group wank and the sort of thing they really enjoyed making but that none of us would enjoy watching. Am pleased I can just skip it.

  • 10 4-05-2009 at 9:47 am

    Viola said...

    I think Love Actually is the most overrated
    romantic comedy ever. It was complete crap.
    I still think PS Hoffman might be able to pull
    off a Golden Globe nom in the comedy category.

  • 11 4-21-2009 at 9:56 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Okay so I just saw this film. The Movie That Rocked. Okay that was lame, but it did rock. Whatever it lacked in story it made up with atmosphere, funny characters and sex. Basically the movie worked so well because I wanted to be there on that boat, with those guys. Awesome. No particular standouts but a Grande Finale to boot this one’s a winner in my book, and the most enjoyable film I’ve seen this year.

  • 12 4-21-2009 at 11:51 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Well, it’s nice to see the film has some defenders. Can’t say I’m among them, though … I’m afraid I found the whole thing excruciatingly smug and over-extended.

  • 13 6-27-2009 at 7:36 pm

    Mickche said...

    yeh, saw the film couple of months ago, and it’s long. The whole Titanic thing really needed to be trimmed down. I’d say the best thing about the film is simply the music.