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With: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, Tom Sturridge, Rhys Darby, Ralph Brown, Tom Brooke, Chris O'Dowd, Tom Wisdom, Ike Hamilton, Emma Thompson
Written by: Richard Curtis
Directed by: Richard Curtis
MPAA Rating: R for language, and some sexual content including brief nudity
Running Time: 115
Date: 04/01/2009

Pirate Radio (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Rocking the Boat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's 1966 and rock 'n' roll is banned in England, but it's still legal to broadcast from offshore. Young Carl (Tom Sturridge) arrives on board the Radio Rock, an old fishing boat converted to a floating radio station. Carl witnesses a series of vignettes about an ensemble of misfit characters. Carl's godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy) is the captain, and a ragtag crew of DJs includes the boisterous Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), tubby Dave (Nick Frost) and seductive Gavin (Rhys Ifans), plus many others. The Count and Gavin strike up a rivalry, romances come and go, and there's lots of general bickering and ribbing. Meanwhile, on dry land, the menacing government minister Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) will stop at nothing to shut them down.

Written and directed by Richard Curtis (Love Actually), Pirate Radio was trimmed by 20 minutes after its release in England, where critics complained of excessive length (and where the film was titled The Boat That Rocked), and now the movie feels jaunty and lightweight, though perhaps a bit too weightless. Too many characters with too little screen time add up to not much depth for anyone; the character arcs are overall fairly simple and predictable, with little emotional weight. (The centerpiece character, Carl, is the weakest of all). It's more like an extended BBC comedy sketch than a film.

But the film's good-natured rebellion and genuine enthusiasm for the power of rock 'n' roll can be infectious and enjoyable. Moreover, talented actors and comedians like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost and Kenneth Branagh manage to find brilliantly humorous moments within their dialogue, generating plenty of laughs.

Universal's 2010 Blu-Ray release comes with no less than 50 minutes' worth of deleted scenes, some of which were probably shown in theaters in the British cut. We also get a pretty standard 20-minute making-of featurette, and a commentary track with director Curtis, producer Hilary Bevan Jones, and actors Nick Frost and Chris O'Dowd. If your Blu-Ray player is internet-ready, there are more bonuses.

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