“Pirate Radio” (also known as “The Boat That Rocked”), written and directed by Richard Curtis, is the true story of a pirate radio boat operating on frequency 203 in the North Sea off the coast of England, a floating radio station that broadcast rock and roll to England, in defiance of the government. Ninety-three per cent of the British public liked the music, but the authority in charge, assisted by a character named “Twatt,” is determined to pass a new law, called the Marine Offenses Act, to outlaw the format and the station.
Cast as the man who is determined to stomp out the affront to civilization that rock and roll represents is Kenneth Branagh as Sir Alistair Dormandy. (Branagh’s ex-wife, Emma Thompson, also has a small cameo as the glamorous Charlotte, mother of Young Carl, played by Tom Sturridge.)
The log line for the movie is “1 boat. 8 DJ’s. No morals.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays The Count, an American DJ whose prominence at the station is challenged by the reappearance of popular disc jockey Gavin Cavanagh, played by Rhys Ifans, whom fans will remember as Hugh Grant’s kooky side-kick in “Notting Hill.”
Also recognizable from “Flight of the Conchords” is the actor playing Angus, Rhys Darby, who provides some—but not all—of the comic relief. The funny lines are numerous, so Angus is only a tiny part of the overall humor.
It’s a bit disconcerting to view Rhys Ifans (formerly seen primarily in comic roles such as the Brit who attached helium balloons to a lawn chair to go airborne) as an irresistible chick magnet who says things like “This is Gavin, tweaking the nation’s nipples.”
One of my favorite lines from the movie was Philip Seymour Hoffman declaring “Why am I so fat?” while challenging Gavin Cavanagh to a “chicken” contest involving mast-climbing, a contest designed to punish Cavanagh for an offense to fellow DJ Simon (Chris O’Dowd). When Gavin (Ifans) first returns to the floating radio station, he character says (to Hoffman), “You’re the Count: what does that make me? The King?” To which Hoffman responds, “Or the Joker.”
Oh, it’s on!
The film has a subplot (which is a bit like a Maury Povich episode), involving determining which member of the ship may (or may not) have fathered Young Carl. There is still more humor from a character called Thick (misspelled on his cabin door as “Thikc”) Kevin (Tom Brooke).
The soundtrack for the film is outstanding. It was supervised by Nick Angel and features songs like “My Generation” from “The Who.” There’s also a bit part played by January Jones as Elenore. (Jones plays Betsy on “Mad Men.”)
It’s a film you might miss, because it doesn’t have the huge advertising budget of “2012,” but it is going to be infinitely more satisfying and way funnier.