The Boat That Rocked


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It was the summer of 1966. The British Invasion was at its peak, and England had become the rockingest, rollingest country on Earth. There were the Beatles and the Stones and a host of others. Meanwhile, a whole new heavy-metal sound was developing in the USA, and the Motown sound was still at its peak. In addition, the rockabilly and doo-wop songs of pre-Beatles rock were still blanketing the airwaves. It was a great time for rock and roll. Unfortunately, the government of the UK didn't quite see it that way, and the BBC stations were playing classical music and progressive jazz most of the time.

To meet the public demand for the most popular music in the UK, pirate stations started broadcasting from boats in international seas just outside of British territorial waters. Thus began a battle between the pirates and Her Majesty's government for the soul of British youth. This is a movie about that struggle, focusing on one fictional boat called Radio Rock.

The film was written and directed by Richard Curtis, who did Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral. It stars some of the best comic talent in the British Isles, like Rhys Ifans and Bill Nighy. It features Philip Seymour Hoffman as the token American DJ aboard the Radio Rock ship. It even features sort of a reunion between Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson, although they have no scenes together. The sound track is a celebratory non-stop broadcast of the hits of 1966 and 1967, which are always in the foreground or background, although it surprisingly seems to favor American groups over the great British Invasion bands.

Although it has a few laughs, The Boat That Rocked is not wildly funny. Although there is a historical backdrop, the story is not meant to be historically accurate, or even plausible. It's more of a fantasy film, and it's kind of a mawkish one at that, but I didn't mind at all. Frankly, I have no problem with Richard Curtis having ignored the facts, or having skipped the jokes, or having worn his heart on his sleeve in this case, because the love object in this romance is not a woman, but classic rock music, and I share his passion. The period covered by this film is my senior year of high school, the summer afterward, and my freshman year of college - the years which were the greatest times of my young life. Mid-sixties rock is the music that reminds me of my old friends and connects to all my happiest boyhood memories. Plus the people in this film are some of my favorite performers. So I gotta admit that I pretty much loved every minute of this movie and don't want to be analytical about its flaws and failings. I'm not even going to complain that it went on too long, because that two hours and nine minutes flew by for me, and I dropped everything else I was doing so that I could concentrate on the music and the story. It's the most blatantly, unabashedly sentimental love poem to rock and roll since Almost Famous, and Phil Hoffman is a character-acting God, so I'm going to stop typing now and watch it again.

And I'll sing along, dammit. And remember.

Fuck it, I might even dance.

If you are nostalgic for the music and energy of 1966 and 1967, join me.


(I wish I could recommend it, but the price is a ridiculous $75. It will come out next month on Region 2 DVD, and the price there is normal - about twenty bucks. (





55 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)


7.6 IMDB summary (of 10)


Box Office Mojo. It grossed about $9m in England and a similar amount in France.



  • Tom Sturridge - buns
  • About 100 topless women in a very brief flash.



Our Grade:

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