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</script></div>{/googleAds}Richard Curtis visits the soundtrack of his youth in Pirate Radio, which pays homage to a moment in the ‘60s when the only way for the home country of The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones to hear their music was to tune in to makeshift radio stations broadcasting from boats off the coast of Great Britain. The film is a tribute, of sorts, to the spirit of rock, which was seriously put to the censorship test by British bureaucrats intent on shielding its youth from the influences of low moral standards. But unfortunately, Curtis's Rock ‘n' Roll love letter is an overlong, jumbled mess of a film that has trouble finding both its voice and its focus.

The classic rock soundtrack is about the best thing going for Pirate Radio (even though some selected tracks are the ones we've come to expect from ‘60s themed films), which is a shame since it has such wonderful performances and rich subject matter. But the problem lies in the fact that Curtis, whose directorial debut Love Actually suffered from many of the same inadequacies, has trouble deciding what kind of film he wants Pirate Radio to be. There's a great coming-of-age story in there that never quite receives enough attention, the characters are never fully fleshed out, and the bites taken at the scourge of censorship never flash enough teeth to become abrasively entertaining. Curtis admits he was going for Animal House or a rock ‘n' roll version of Robert Altman's M*A*S*H. But whereas the latter thrived on its loose informal structure, and the former on its raunchy jokes and hilarious situational humor, Pirate Radio is neither quixotic nor humorous enough to compare itself to either of those two films. Plus, it's just too long. Even after some 30 minutes or so was removed for American audiences, at 135 minutes it's still an exercise in clock-watching submission.

Pirate RadioLife on this ship of fools is seen though the eyes of young Carl (Tom Sturridge), who's sent by his mother to live on the boat with his Godfather, Quentin (Bill Nighy), who captains the vessel and employs the staff and DJs. Carl meets the ship's wacky gaggle of blokes including the station's lone American DJ played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, fellow DJs Dave (Nick Frost) and Thick Kevin (Tom Brooke), and Gavin (Rhys Ifans), a legendary British DJ brought on to shore up sagging ratings.

Sturridge misses a huge opportunity that nearly wrecks the entire film. His naïve Carl, peeking forward to manhood like Almost Famous‘s William Miller (Patrick Fugit), forms the dramatic backbone of the story. But unfortunately, the young actor isn't strong enough to carry the weight of the role. In a film that's chock full of such vibrant and colorful characters, we need someone to be the sympathetic core to latch onto... somebody to root for. But Sturridge is crushed under the swaggering brio of his fellow actors. His Carl's naïveté comes across as bland and dull rather than compassionate and worldly curious. As a result, we just don't care. It's not all Sturridge's fault however, as Curtis often abandons this critical thread, always overly anxious to get back to any of the other disparate story lines he struggles to narrate.

As the film's backbeat, is a thread that follows the antagonist, Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh), a stuffy, conservative member of the British Government who wants to shut down these pirate radio stations, alleging the interference of valuable radio bandwidth, but in actuality, just opposing fun and the low moral standing attached to rock ‘n' roll music. Branagh plays his character so over the top, it's embarrassingly cartoonish. Throw in the fact that his co-conspirator's name is â"Twatt" (although they pronounce it like â"at") and this whole thread becomes laughingly painful.

In Love Actually, which also featured music of the ‘60s, Curtis found himself reflecting on childhood memories of nights spent staying up late and listening to forbidden rock and roll music from a transistor radio stuffed under his pillow. Like in that film, his careful selection of period songs crank out an auditory countenance that gleefully guides us through Pirate Radio. But unfortunately, not even the Kinks, The Turtles, The Troggs, or The Tremellos can deliver this misaddressed love letter.

Component Grades
2 stars
2 stars
DVD Experience
2 stars


Blu-ray Details:

While Pirate Radio may be more about show than substance, the blu-ray boasts a 1080p high definition spotless transfer (2.35:1). The special features, often in less than mediocre condition, are presented in high definition and include deleted scenes. Since there was rumored to be a much longer version of the film, it makes sense that there are additional scenes that help fill out the narrative. There are optional introductions by director Richard Curtis, together (introductions and deleted scenes) these total over an hour of bonus material. Most of the scenes focus on the party atmosphere of the boat, with pranks, wicked dance parties, war against a rival radio boat, a stag night visit to a raucous London, and naughty, naughty wordplay. Neccessity? Well, they make for an overall better film... .and leave one to wonder if there won't be a director's cut of the film to make it a better flowing love letter to all things rock ‘n' roll... but it's easy to see why they were trimmed from the original cut in the first place.

The Blu-ray also has nineteen-minutes of making of featurettes that feature the boat as a set, the shooting of the sex scene, and a focus on the music of the ‘60s. There is also a rowdy feature-length commentary by Curtis, producer Hilary Bevan Jones, Nick Frost, and Chris O'Dowd that focuses more on the comedic aspects of the film. The disc is also BD-Live equipped and has the ability to bookmark favorite scenes for instant access (via My Scenes).

Screen Formats: 2.39:1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish.

Language and Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French: DTS 5.1 Spanish: DTS 5.1.


Commentary (2)

  • Feature-length audio commentary with writer/director Richard Curtis, producer Hilary Bevan Jones, and actors Nick Frost and Chris O'Dowd.


  • Tuning In
  • 7 Inches of Heaven
  • All at Sea
  • Getting Ship Shape
  • Hitting the Decks
  • Mark's Love Den

Deleted Scenes: 68-minutes of additional material.

BD-Live Functionality and News Ticker

My Scenes Bookmarking

Number of Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc Single disc (1 BD).