Under Review: ‘Pirate Radio’


The U.S. release of “Pirate Radio” has been delayed for months, and when it was finally released Nov. 13, it was dumped quietly at the beginning of awards season. So given its release date issues, I was worried the second film from director Richard Curtis (after 2003’s “Love Actually”) would be a disappointment. But though the film has its flaws, it’s actually quite enjoyable.

“Pirate Radio,” originally titled “The Boat that Rocked,” is a period comedy set against the backdrop of 1960s rock n’ roll. Mainstream British radio stations refuse to play rock music, and pirate stations like Radio Rock broadcast 24 hours a day from boats.

When young, inquisitive Carl (Tom Sturridge) gets expelled from school, his mother (Emma Thompson) sends him aboard the Radio Rock ship to stay with his godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy).

Aboard the ship, Carl meets the station’s popular DJs like flamboyant Gavin (Rhys Ifans), flirtatious Dr. Dave (Nick Frost) and rebellious American broadcaster The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Along with the rest of the station’s crew, the men introduce Carl to the rock n’ roll lifestyle.

The movie chronicles Carl’s coming of age experience on the ship and the eclectic gang’s day-to-day misadventures. All the while a conservative government official, Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh), tries desperately to shut down Radio Rock.

Overall, I really liked this film. The music in fantastic (ranging from The Who to Dusty Springfield), and Curtis captures the rock n’ roll atmosphere of the 1960s very well.

Everyone involved gives great comedic performances, but the standout of the bunch is Hoffman, who, since “Capote,” has quickly become recognized as one of the best actors around. He could sit in front of a camera for two hours with a paper bag over his head and I would still watch it. But the entire ensemble works well together, each character hilariously unique as individuals and as a group.

One of my biggest complaints actually has little to do with the film itself and more to do with its U.S. marketing campaign. The poster and trailers prominently state “inspired by true events.” Elements are loosely based on actual pirate radio stations that existed in 1960s Britain, but other than that, the story is completely fictional. It’s a great story, but it shouldn’t be marketed as fact when most of it is fiction.

Another complaint is the film’s running time, which at 2 hours and 15 minutes is a bit lengthy, especially for a comedy. It’s bearable because the characters are all so much fun to watch, but it nevertheless feels too lengthy at times. The story is also a bit incoherent sometimes, but overall it’s a fun time at the movies.

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2 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Disco #

    I may end up seeing this.

  2. Don #

    I’ve heard good things about it and a few bad things. Rental.

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