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Date Movie Of The Week – Pirate Radio

November 14, 2009

This film looks to be a great date comedy for those of us who have an appreciation for pop culture and its history, and most importantly, for people who love and are affected by music.

Apple’s Quicktime site offers this very good (although a bit long) outline of the movie, its plot and its message:

Rock and roll will live forever – but can it float? Pirate Radio is the newest ensemble comedy from filmmaker Richard Curtis (screenwriter of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, and writer/director of Love Actually), spinning the irreverent yet fact-based tale of a seafaring band of rogue rock and roll deejays whose “pirate radio” captivated and inspired 1960s Britain. Playing the music that rocked a nation and a decade, the group boldly and hilariously defies the government that tries to shut them down. Broadcasting live 24/7 from an old tanker anchored in the middle of the North Sea (just beyond British jurisdiction), Radio Rock sends out a vibrant and unifying signal to millions across the nation, ranging in age from wide-eyed pre-teens secretly tuning in long past their bedtimes to everyday people in need of a musical pick-me-up. The Radio Rock roster, overseen by unflappable station owner (and ship’s captain) Quentin (Bill Nighy), includes a risk-prone American known only as The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman); mystic deejay royalty Gavin (Rhys Ifans); slyly amorous Dave (Nick Frost); idiosyncratic New Zealander Angus (Rhys Darby); the rarely seen Bob (Ralph Brown); the aptly named Thick Kevin (Tom Brooke); lovelorn Simon (Chris O’Dowd); ladies’ magnet Mark (Tom Wisdom); shy Harold (Ike Hamilton); reporter News John (Will Adamsdale); and lesbian ship’s cook Felicity (Katherine Parkinson). One night in 1966, Quentin’s teenaged godson Carl (Tom Sturridge) comes aboard. While Carl harbors romantic aspirations that he hopes will be fulfilled during one of the biweekly visits by Radio Rock’s prettiest fans, he also hopes to find out more about his long-absent father… As the ship sails on and rocks out, what Carl and the freewheeling, free-loving Radio Rock gang don’t know is that back in London, landlocked government minister Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) has embarked on a vehement crusade to silence their signal – permanently. To stay afloat and keep their devoted audience plugged in, the crew will have to band together and trust in the power of music like never before.

Rotten Tomatoes has given it 59%. Boxoffice gave it 3.5 / 5 stars. The UK’s Times Online gave it 2 / 5, saying:

The Boat That Rocked could have worked as a silly, funny and fast romp, but it is sunk by three big flaws.

First, the film is far too long. There’s a good 45 minutes that could have been dispensed with…

Second, though Curtis has assembled a fine cast, he doesn’t use them well…

Third, Curtis has failed to give us characters we can really like…

Ultimately, The Boat That Rocks offers a mix of British pop and patriotism, an alternative myth of what it means to be British for the pop generation, with Nighy as the John Mills of louche living. Curtis is celebrating the plucky, eccentric underdogs who fought the baby-boomer battle of Britain: your right to party and pig out on pop. Too bad those brave bad boys are so badly served by his film.

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