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Pirate Radio

2009 movie starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans Nick Frost and Kenneth Branagh.

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Review: Pirate Radio/The Boat That Rocked

  • Feb 17, 2011

My mom bugged me about going to see Pirate Radio (original title: The Boat that Rocked) when it hit the theaters in 2009. I didn’t want to make the effort, blah blah busy life blah so she went and saw it herself like a boss. I only do that for movies like The Dark Knight, which nobody wanted to accompany with me after my fifth viewing. So, my mom came home raving about this film, how funny it was, how clever, how much she wants to make Bill Nighy my step-daddy (just kidding.) etc. etc. so it didn’t surprise me when she recently asked me to rent it for her. I had the smug duty that only a sassy adult child possesses when I told her it was already IN my Netflix queue. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Mom. I even bumped that DVD up to the top of my queue just to prove what an awesome daughter I am. HA!

Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Upon his expulsion from school, Young Carl is sent to his stay with his godfather Quentin, who runs radio station Radio Rock on a boat in the North Sea. With hodge-podge of disc-jockeys and crew, Radio Rock ensures that Britain has access to the best pop/rock hits their country has sought fit to deny its citizens. Meanwhile, on the mainland, it is the task of government minister Sir Alistair Dormandy to shut down pirate radio for good.

While this isn’t a movie with a lot of plot twists and turns, I am giving a courtesy spoiler space regardless.


My mother was under the impression that the events depicted in this film were inspired by true events and real people, but I was skeptical from the get-go and completely convinced that it was BS by the climax of the movie. A quick Google search proved that my skepticism was spot-on: no one in this film was “real” despite the American marketing campaign tactics to tell USA audiences otherwise. It is still historical fiction, as pirate radio did exist and I’m sure the world did not want for zany pop/rock enthusiasts.

With that said, however, I enjoyed this film a lot. It’s an indulgent, guilty pleasure film the way people like mindless action films with zero plot or off-the-wall slapstick comedies. This is a British romp film, not as over the top as Monty Python, but with the right doses of chaos and cohesiveness to be an entertaining film that told a story based, at the very least, on modern history.

The tangents and irreverence of the film was found distracting and annoying to its initial British audience. 45 minutes worth of deleted scenes has been cut out of the region 1 DVDs, but is part of the bonus features. While it’s easy for me to say I loved those extra 45 minutes and would have liked to seen them included in the film, I must be honest and confess I get annoyed by too many asides (found in the likes of M*A*S*H, if you need another film as a point of reference.) On the other hands, they’re fun character add-ons. Who knows if I would have liked the movie as much were those scenes included, but I am glad that I have the option of viewing them.

I can’t rightly go through an acting grade system because the cast is many and no one person outshines the other. I will say, though, that everyone does a smashing job and a special shout out goes to Tom Sturridge who is like a British version of the smokin’ Ian Somerhalder. I want one for Christmas. OK, back to my armchair critic duties…

Overall Rating
Story: A
Execution: A-
Would I Recommend: Yes
Would I Buy: I plan to buy it for my mom because I rule
Can your Mum Watch It: She loves it and I’ll bet yours will too. Especially if she grew up in the 60s.

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February 20, 2011
really enjoyed the way your review had a lot of personality! I saw this movie the other day on HBO and I was very entertained. Thanks!
February 20, 2011
thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the movie, too!
February 17, 2011
Haha, your mom sounds cute, and this review itself is cute! Sounds like I've gotta catch this with my momma. Thanks for sharing! :D
February 18, 2011
Thanks! My mom is kind of cute, especially when it comes to British movies.
February 17, 2011
LOL... You are hilarious & absolutely a delightful daughter!!! I had fun reading it, THANKS!!!
February 18, 2011
Thank you for commenting :D I'm trying to find that delicate balance between "charmingly quirky" and "vulgar" lol
February 18, 2011
Oh, don't worry about it. You write beautifully :-)
More Pirate Radio (2009 movie) reviews
review by . May 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     "Pirate Radio", also known as "The Boat that Rocked", is pure fun. And it takes a lot of craft to create what I'd call "fun". A film that probably should have been mediocre and unfunny is turned pretty solid, and indeed funny, through a typically British sense of humor, a rocking-awesome soundtrack, and a big cast with a big heart. I won't call it great cinema, but I admire "Pirate Radio" for the good things about it, rather than scoff at it for its flaws. …
review by . November 13, 2009
posted in Music Matters
Pirate Radio 2
The year was 1966.  Although the sounds of rock & roll, R&B , folk and soul were exploding all over the countryside the staid BBC continued to program only the news, interview programs and the same old dreary music.  The writer/director of "Pirate Radio" Richard Curtis recalled in a recent interview with Rob Lowman of the Los Angeles Daily News that "In my dad's generation they literally had eight records.  They …
review by . March 25, 2011
Over the last few years Hollywood has produced a number of films that I like to call "soundtracks to life". The teen generation recently had Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. Some people may not agree with me on this, but I feel that Adventureland was homage to classics of the 70s, and this weekend we get the wild adveture that Pirate Radio takes the audience on. It's a picture that brings laughs from start to finish.      Pirate Radio tells the story of a …
Quick Tip by . September 26, 2010
Great ensemble piece! This mosaic of great acting and interesting personalities kept me glued and wanting more. Bill Nighy and Nick Frost as well as Rhys Ifans stood out in this outstanding cast. Kevin Branagh was so immersed in his character that he was unrecognizable as the posh, yet devious villain.
About the reviewer
Rachael ()
Ranked #73
   I am a freelance travel/food writer with my own hobby blog, Glass of Win.   I am a regularly featured writer for Visit the Place Los Angeles magazine and online community.
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About this movie


Rock and roll will live forever – but can it float?

Pirate Radio is the newest ensemble comedy from filmmaker Richard Curtis (screenwriter of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, and writer/director of Love Actually), spinning the irreverent yet fact-based tale of a seafaring band of rogue rock and roll deejays whose “pirate radio” captivated and inspired 1960s Britain. Playing the music that rocked a nation and a decade, the group boldly and hilariously defies the government that tries to shut them down.

Broadcasting live 24/7 from an old tanker anchored in the middle of the North Sea (just beyond British jurisdiction), Radio Rock sends out a vibrant and unifying signal to millions across the nation, ranging in age from wide-eyed pre-teens secretly tuning in long past their bedtimes to everyday people in need of a musical pick-me-up. The Radio Rock roster, overseen by unflappable station owner (and ship’s captain) Quentin (Bill Nighy), includes a risk-prone American known only as The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman); mystic deejay royalty Gavin (Rhys Ifans); slyly amorous Dave (Nick Frost); idiosyncratic New Zealander Angus (Rhys Darby); the rarely seen Bob (Ralph Brown); the aptly named Thick Kevin (Tom Brooke); lovelorn Simon (Chris O’Dowd); ladies’ magnet Mark (Tom Wisdom); shy Harold (Ike Hamilton); reporter News John (Will Adamsdale); and lesbian ship’s cook Felicity (Katherine Parkinson). One night in 1966, ...

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Movies, Comedy Movies, Directors, 1960s, Comedy, Screenwriters, Richard Curtis, Universal Pictures, Focus Features


Director: Richard Curtis
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: November 13, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Richard Curtis
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures, Focus Features
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