DVD Review: 'Pirate Radio' rocks the boat with great music, mirth
Writer-director Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”) launched one of the funniest ensemble comedies of the past year, inspired by those two hilarious classics and the actual events of his youth when, in the home country of world-changing musical acts such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who, the government-run British Broadcasting Co. (BBC) aired little more than two hours of rock or pop music each week.
But the British establishment’s anti-rock conservatism only served to create a movement of underground rock ‘n’ roll freedom fighters, broadcasting illegally from ships and marine structures anchored outside the U.K.’s territorial waters, reaching millions of English hearts and souls hungry to hear Roger Daltrey stuttering “My Generation” and the Yardbirds pleading “For Your Love.”
Curtis sets his fictionalization of this cultural phenomenon in 1966 aboard one such high-voltage vessel, where urbane and unflappable station owner/ship’s captain Quentin (Bill Nighy) oversees a colorful crew of rogue disc jockeys that includes a rule-bending renegade American known only as “The Count” (Philip Seymour Hoffman in naturally cool-dude mode); ultra-hip, flamboyantly mod-clad radio royalty Gavin Cavanagh (a perfectly smooth and slinky Rhys Ifans); amorous but overweight Dave (an achingly funny Nick Frost), who is amazingly successful at seducing the station’s prettiest female fans, despite his girth and to the consternation of his shipmates; oddball New Zealander Angus (Rhys Darby); slow-witted “Thick” Kevin (Tom Brooke); and Quentin’s visiting teenage stepson (Tom Sturridge), who’s ripe for being corrupted by this rowdy band of airwave outlaws.
Meanwhile, back in London, a relentlessly stuffy and intolerant government minister (an excellent, straight-faced comic turn from Kenneth Branagh) is leading the charge to pull the plug on pirate radio and sink it once and for all. The crew of the rocking boat has to figure a way to pull together and keep their 24/7 party afloat and the music alive.
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