Published Nov 12, 2009Known more for work of the female-courting variety, with titles like Notting Hill and Bridget Jones's Diary under his belt, writer/director Richard Curtis takes a stab at the Y-chromosome with Pirate Radio, a desultory love letter to pop and rock music of the late '60s. While he does indeed understand the male preference for all things hip, rather than sincere, there's little good to be said about this fragmentary romp through radio DJ territory, aside from its solid soundtrack, featuring the likes of Cream, the Who, the Troggs, the Hollies and David Bowie.
In a vein not entirely dissimilar to Almost Famous, the young Carl (Tom Sturridge) sails off to the very pirate ship/radio station where his long lost father may, or may not, reside. The ragtag team of screwball radio personalities, including the alpha-male Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), hefty joker Dave (Nick Frost) and ever-popular Gavin (Rhys Ifans), help the boy lose his virginity and experiment with drugs. For anyone wondering why radio is being broadcast from a boat, the year is 1969, when BBC standards and arbitrary legalities left UK listeners relying on pirate radio stations for all things cutting edge.
Of course, since the government "hates it when people have any sort of freedom," as stated by station manager Quentin (Bill Nighy), a rigid Sir Alastair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh, intentionally donning a moustache much like Hitler's) and his assistant, Twatt (Jack Davenport), seek to stop this amoral nonsense.
Until the final act, this secondary storyline doesn't interfere with the bed-hopping, charades-playing antics of the rollicking crew, as the film is mostly a series of goofy vignettes set to an ever-present soundtrack. In fact, there are a good 15 minutes dedicated to the guys doing the slow-motion Armageddon line-up walk in various locales, for no discernable reason aside from seeming awesomeness.
Regardless, those keen on a healthy dose of late '60s music and a bit of irreverent sass from their favourite UK actors may appreciate this overlong, unfunny comedy. But anyone looking for an actual movie will be sorely disappointed. (Alliance)