Pirate Radio Richard Curtis

Pirate Radio Richard Curtis
An audio commentary by the director and his stars, plus some deleted scenes, can't save an unfunny comedy. That's the problem with Pirate Radio, directed by Richard Curtis, who gave us lightweight commercial films such as Four Weddings and A Funeral. Let's backtrack. Ironically, as the British Invasion took the world by storm in the mid-'60s, Britons could only hear the Beatles, Stones and Who an hour a day on official radio. That changed when some ambitious young rock fans launched floating radio stations that broadcast rock and soul music from the waters surrounding the British Isles. Nearly half of UK listeners tuned in, and that infuriated the uptight British government, whose BBC had a lock on the airwaves. Instead of focussing on the battle between free expression and state censorship (and drawing a parallel between today's torrent sites, like the Pirate Bay, versus the courts), Curtis is more interested in relating the sex lives of his one-dimensional characters. They are the DJs that spin vinyl on these boats and act like frat boys. Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the extroverted American DJ is wasted in a nothing role. The soundtrack, ranging from the sublime Leonard Cohen to explosive Motown, is a pleasure, but can't carry this film. There's no tangible conflict in the story and the characters are made of cardboard. The repressive government bureaucrat (played by Kenneth Branagh) is made to look and act like Hitler ― not exactly subtle. There's a great story that isn't told here. Irish music manager Ronan O'Rahilly launched Radio Caroline to get some of his acts heard. He named his boat after the daughter of his idol: John F. Kennedy. He fought the suits within his own company and battled the irresponsible DJs who filled his airwaves. Meanwhile, he fought the humourless British government to liberate the ears of over 20 million listeners. If you want to see this story, track down the superb 1991 documentary Radio Caroline: A Pirate's Tale. Meanwhile, Pirate Radio misses the boat. (Alliance)