Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Movie with Abe: Pirate Radio

Pirate Radio
Directed by Richard Curtis
Released November 13, 2009

Some movies are just about having fun. This boat trip is exactly that, and while there isn’t much to anchor this voyage, it’s still a blast. Richard Curtis has penned two terrific romantic comedies in the past, “Love Actually” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and their above-average status might indicate that this movie, Curtis’ second directorial effort, would be just as spectacular. The difference with this wildly entertaining film is that it’s not a romantic comedy – there are barely any romances since these male pirate broadcasters don’t allow women on the boat. The lack of females isn’t a devastating problem, and it allows for a clearer focus on the relationships between the men onboard this boat that rocked.

“Pirate Radio” is an ensemble film that doesn’t highlight any one character as the lead, and therefore all of the various colorful players are equally strong. Enlisting talented actors and comedians like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rhys Ifans, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, and Rhys Darby (Murray from “Flight of the Conchords”) to play the deranged shipmates is a smart idea, and casting respected British actor Kenneth Branagh and Jack Davenport (“Swingtown,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”) as the government suits trying to bring them down makes for a thrilling and entertaining battle. Watching the brazen broadcasters try their best to piss off the government and wreak havoc is endlessly amusing, and the film doesn’t overdo it despite being infused with much male humor and general shenanigans.

“Pirate Radio” is one of those films, like recent releases “Taking Woodstock” and “Across the Universe,” where the soundtrack adds an entirely separate element to the experience. Those who adore and appreciate the songs, groups, and genres will gain something extra by seeing the films, and that’s often something that can also distract from a lack of coherent story or attempt at plot (like in the Beatles film). This film stands apart because it doesn’t feature any actual live performances, but instead uses the music as fuel to drive forward its story of rebellion, something to help the characters get to where they want to be. The love these characters espouse for their beloved rock music is secondary to their desire to be real rabble-rousers, and have a blast doing it. The film’s original title was “The Boat That Rocked,” and while the double meaning is commendably clever, “Pirate Radio” seems a more fitting mantra for this film.


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