Dave White
Pirate Radio Review

Dave's Rating:


Dramamine required.

Who's In It: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Sturridge, Bill Nighy, Tom Brooke, Nick Frost, Katherine Parkinson, Rhys Ifans, Tom Wisdom, Kenneth Branagh, Jack Davenport, January Jones, Emma Thompson

The Basics: Welcome to fiction based on a loose collection of facts. Because while it's true that it was hard to hear pop music on the radio in the mid-1960s in the U.K., the government never actually tried to ban it. And this movie, about a pirate radio boat broadcasting off the coast of England, rocking and rolling in the face of stern disapproval from a thin-lipped cadre of stuffy British suits, is only somewhat based on events that actually took place (the Wikipedia page dismantles the whole thing, if you're really set on knowing). Having said that, it's kind of like what would happen if one of those old Disney live-action Kurt Russell-starring Dexter Riley movies about well-scrubbed college kids fighting the administration had a lot of f-bombs, breasts and a naked Nick Frost sprinkled on top of it.

What's The Deal: In England this movie was called The Boat That Rocked and nobody went to see it so they chopped 20+ minutes off it and shipped it over here. But it's still dull, and that's sad, because it's from Richard Curtis, a guy who's made his career with charming, often indefensibly cozy comedies about posh, pretty Brits in love (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually). And all it took was for him to pop off this boring, sanitized slobs vs. snobs comedy to expose his limitations. Please, Richard Curtis, make another heart-tuggy chuckly thing where Keira Knightley falls in love with Hugh Grant in the food hall of Harrods. And do it quick.

What's Wrong: First of all, Curtis seems to have an odd Titanic fetish that he hauled out once in Love Actually and tips his hat to again by turning the last act of this movie into an homage, literally sinking the radio station. What better way to bond the estranged father and son characters and allow an insufferably "righteous" Philip Seymour Hoffman a chance to deliver a stirring monologue about the power of music as the boat plunges down beneath the waves (needle miraculously not jumping the record grooves)?

What Else Is Wrong: Embarrassingly on-the-nose song cues, awkward middle-aged earnestness, the lack of this one Troggs song about love being all around (because, at this point, what's stopping him from using it again?) and finally, no drugs. Where are all the drugs? Weren't the 1960s culture renegades always high? I read once in Slouching Towards Bethlehem that they were all high.

What's Right:
1. The sweet lesbian romance subplot will remind you that Curtis is only doing his job properly when people are giving each other the wet-eyed love-stare.
2. Emma Thompson's cameo, in which she barely takes off her sunglasses for a split second, but reminds you why she's better than everyone else pretty much all the time.
3. The closing credits where they flash a million album covers at you, even though one of them belongs to Taylor Swift.


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