THE BOAT THAT ROCKED * * *
Cert 15, 135 mins
We’ve come to expect great things from Richard Curtis, the man who wrote Notting Hill, Love Actually, Blackadder and The Vicar Of Dibley.
His films are eagerly anticipated, so it gives me no pleasure to report that his latest is the worst he’s ever made.
Written, directed and produced by Curtis, The Boat That Rocked certainly won’t sink his career, but he’s sailed into choppy waters.
It’s not terrible, and if anyone else had made it, we’d think it was fairly funny. But from Curtis, it’s a real disappointment.
He is self-indulgently recreating his childhood and the time spent furtively listening to Radio Caroline.
It is set on Radio Rock, a pirate radio ship moored somewhere in the North Sea in 1966. The film starts with the surprising statistic that in that year, when bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were at their height, BBC radio played less than 45 minutes of pop music every day.
The youth of the nation naturally turned to pirate radio, which was broadcasting to 25 million listeners.
On to Radio Rock arrives teenager Carl (Tom Sturridge), who’s been expelled from school and is sent by his mother Emma Thompson to spend time with his godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy), the boat’s captain.
He’s not exactly a steadying influence, as a new world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is opened up to Carl.
The DJs include The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), sleazy Dave (Nick Frost), cool Gavin (Rhys Ifans), Simple Simon (Chris O’Dowd) and ageing Bob (Ralph Brown).
The lone female allowed on board is lesbian cook Felicity (Katherine Parkinson).
Meanwhile, back on land, government minister Kenneth Branagh and his assistant Jack Davenport are plotting to silence the pirate stations for good.
There are some nice moments – Branagh relishes all his lines, and Hoffman and Ifans climbing the mast is briefly exciting – and the period detail is good. Anyone who grew up listening to Radio Caroline will enjoy wallowing in nostalgia and listening to the cracking soundtrack.
But, considering its stellar cast, the film fails to take off. A lot of the humour is just silly, like calling Jack Davenport’s character Twatt.
It’s unnecessarily crude in places, but its worst failing is that there’s just not enough to the thin, episodic plot.
Curtis has gone from having a little too much going on in the multi-layered Love Actually to failing to deliver a meaty enough story to keep us watching for well over two hours. RL
MONSTERS vs ALIENS 3D * * * * *
Cert PG, 94 mins
If you grew up on 1950s B-movies or count more modern films like Mars Attacks! or Monsters, Inc amongst your visual favourites, then you are in for a treat with this new animation.
Unsuspecting children even more so.
Taking 3D animated depths of perspective to new levels of eye-popping wonderment, this is the latest film from DreamWorks, the company which recently gave us Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar 2.
I’ve never subscribed to the view that Pixar (A Bug’s Life) is “better” than DreamWorks (Antz), as their insect films prove.
But, what DreamWorks is particularly good at, is giving its films a sense of fun and there’s plenty of that in Monsters vs Aliens.
Susan, impressively voiced by Reese Witherspoon, is about to get married to a self-centred weatherman.
Struck by a meorite on her big day, she grows into a 50ft monster.
The government rebrands her as Ginormica, but even though she has to go into hiding she retains Susan’s loveliness.
When aliens arrive and conventional weapons are found wanting, other monsters which have been kept hidden for years are brought out to fight the enemy with Ginormica in tow.
Enter B.O.B., a real Mr Blobby voiced by Seth Rogan, Dr Cockroach Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie) and The Missing Link (Will Arnett).
The set piece San Francisco action sequences are magnificent, and B.O.B.’s internalised 3D features very clever.
Stephen Colbert is a hoot as President Hathaway who has two emergency buttons – one for nukes, the other for coffees – and a comrade in arms called General W.R. Monger, energetically voiced by Kiefer Sutherland.
With Barack Obama having recently made personal overtures towards Iran, it’s interesting to see Hathaway chancing his luck with a Close Encounters-style one-to-one meeting with the aliens and then powering up a keyboard in a bid to really impress.
Children over six will enjoy seeing this in 3D at cinemas like Cineworld Broad Street or on the giant IMAX screen at Millennium Point.
The requisite 3D glasses might not fit younger children, so take them to the 2D version which they will enjoy just as much.