It’s also the kind of musical comedy where the actors seem to be having more fun than any audience could ever share. This overlong, poorly paced and slackly directed ship-bound farrago not only wastes its treasury of golden oldies – Hendrix, Kinks, Small Faces etc – but magically contrives to reduce the chaotic, creative spirit of the sexual and cultural revolution to a mere mechanical catalogue of trite and surprisingly sentimental sex-drugs-and-rock ’n’ roll clichés, each fatally underlined by multiple and repetitive reaction shots.
If there are compensations, they come courtesy of a few diverting performances. The movie’s depressingly few incidences of genuine feeling come from Tom Sturridge who is sweet and appealing as the public schoolboy taken under the wing of his godfather, ship’s captain and Radio Rock boss Quentin, played by Bill Nighy as a self-parody in made-to-measure Regency-collared suits. Philip Seymour Hoffman does a turn as the radical, Emperor Rosko-like DJ in rivalry with Rhys Ifans’s self-serving immoralist Gavin.
Elsewhere, pickings are slim: the talented Ralph Brown is wasted – he’s cast as Wee Small Hours Bob, a misjudged amalgam, presumably, of ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris and dysarthric Danny from ‘Withnail & I’ – and the same is doubly true of such comic talents as Chris O’Dowd, Rhys Darby and Nick Frost.