DVD REVIEW: The Boat That Rocked (15)

The Boat That Rocked is that rare thing, a film which seems better on the small screen than on the big.

Maybe the problem was that the film was trailed for months in the cinemas with an advert which shoved together every single one of the best bits '“ with the result that the film itself came as a clunking disappointment.

Several months on, it's possible now to appreciate it for what it is, a joyous celebration of a great era in popular music.

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Richard Curtis takes us back to the days when a strange bunch of benevolent and weirdly-eccentric pirates ruled the waves just off the coast of Britain. The airwaves, that is.

We are back in the 1960s when starchy civil servants were adamant that nasty new music shouldn't be allowed to clutter up radios and young minds '“ so it was driven off-shore and delivered from pirate radio stations instead.

On board Curtis' Rock Radio, a bunch of wacky misfits keep the music coming. Preening, sex-obsessed and passionate, they offer what teenagers want most '“ themselves and the most exciting music that anyone has ever heard.

There are plenty of laughs as the DJs clash, make it up and clash again, egos bumping against each other within the confined space of their watery exile.

Bill Nighy, Nick Frost and Philip Seymour Hoffman are superb in all the shenanigans as a youngster is inducted into all the hedonistic excesses.

Meanwhile, and probably stealing the show, is Kenneth Branagh, a brilliant performance as the minister on a moral crusade to shut the ship down. Branagh delivers contempt and fury in equal measure '“ and to perfection.

The film is too episodic and certainly too long, but on second viewing you're far more likely to see all the things to savour, from the fine performances to the nostalgia for days long gone, from the fantastic soundtrack to the sheer defiant spirit of adventure.

Phil Hewitt's rating: ****

* DVD rental supplied by Blockbuster. For details of other new DVD releases see www.blockbuster.co.uk

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