Editor’s Note: I met John Rabon at Dragon*Con this year when we were on a couple panels together. He was lucky enough to see The Boat That Rocked in Europe earlier this year and decided to write up a review of the differences that Pirate Radio has compared to The Boat the Rocked. Thanks John!
So I took my time to see the film yesterday, and while it had a lot of the great moments and music I remembered from seeing it in Rome this summer, it’s further proof that a director shouldn’t be allowed to re-edit a film except to make a “director’s cut” DVD.
Again, for the most part, the film remained the same. One reason the film was pushed back to a November release in the United States was due to complaints about its length, something Curtis wanted to fix by re-editing it. However, the edits for the American release do the film a disservice. Little things, like Angus playing The Seekers twice in a row weren’t terribly missed, but some of the more comedic scenes were just gone. First, you have a great scene with Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd), who plays DJ Simple Simon Swafford, who deals with the pain of his marriage ending with a hilarious lip-sync to “Stay with Me Baby.” Second, before his marriage, the film completely replaced the wild pub-crawl stag party (set to The Small Faces) with much less funny collage of a party held on the boat.
Also, they cut out a scene where Jack Davenport’s character, Ministry underling Mr. Twat (I kid you not), sneaks on board with fans and is caught by Quintin (Nighy), meanwhile, ladies’ man DJ Mark corrals about half of the female fans into his room, where Quintin finds them all undressed. This scene (in the trailer with all the ladies clothed) helps the film towards the end when Mark is asked how he gets so many women to sleep with him.
Further, certain songs and scenes were moved around in a way that didn’t make as much sense. Our protagonist Carl (not Philip Seymour Hoffman as American trailers imply) meets and falls in love with a girl named Marianne (Miss Evangelista from Doctor Who), who promptly sleeps with Nick Frost instead. In the original version, AFTER Parliament passes an act banning pirate radio stations, Radio Rock defies the ban and plays on to Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” Marianne then comes back to apologize to Carl and finally sleeps with him, cementing their relationship and her return at the end of the film.
In the American re-edit, her return to Carl occurs before the act’s passage, and doesn’t make as much sense, whereas before she was choosing to be with him despite the fact police may storm the boat and arrest everyone. Also, the song changes to “My Generation” by the Who, still appropriate, but the DJs’ dancing to it makes less sense with regard to the songs’ different tempos. The song at the end of the film too changes from David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” to The Kinks “All Day and All of the Night.” Again, doesn’t make as much sense where we see all the main characters dancing to the music.
So, aside from all these complaints, it’s still a great film, Hoffman, Nighy, Frost, O’Dowd, Rhys Ifans, and everyone else generate great performances that make their characters truly memorable. Great scenes left in unaltered include Simon’s wedding, Frost helping to make a man out of Carl, Emma Thompson’s cameo as Carl’s mum, Ifans’ character returning to the station, Hoffman and Ifans’ big ego showdown (set to music from Sergio Leone westerns), and various bits from the DJs. A great amount of 60s rock is left in as well, and should be welcome to those whose advanced years enable them to recall when they first heard such great music. Branagh also turns out a fantastic performance as the villainous Sir Alistair, who shows no redeeming qualities whatsoever throughout the film, he’s about as bland, stuck-up, and square as you could expect an old school Tory to be.
All-in-all, I give the original version 5 stars, and the American version gets 4. I certainly hope when the American DVD release occurs, they include the original with it.