No movie can be all bad when juiced up with a soundtrack of more than 50 classic rock tunes.
The best thing to say about Richard Curtis’ “Pirate Radio” is that it’s all about the music, man. The Kinks, the Who, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Jimi Hendrix — these are the stars of “Pirate Radio,” and the well-chosen songs are the main thing keeping the film afloat.
The movie’s merry deejays, blasting illicit rock ‘n’ roll into stodgy mid-1960s Britain from a boat offshore, are mere roadies, bearing great songs in service of a sloppy story that has about as much to do with the spirit of rock as a Casey Kasem top-10 countdown.
Writer-director Curtis takes his inspiration from the offshore renegades he listened to as a boy, a time when official British broadcasts virtually ignored rock music and floating radio stations filled the void.
“Pirate Radio” is true to Curtis’ boyhood memories — it’s a child’s vision of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
The sex is AM radio sex — safe, tame, almost chaste, and talked about more than experienced, played for laughs more than lust. The only narcotic seems to be the music itself — lulling the big cast of characters into a weird seafaring complacency that’s almost as sedate and orderly as the society against which this music supposedly is rebelling.
It’s a big disappointment when you consider the potentially explosive combination of Curtis’ supergroup of comic talent. Among the troupe: Philip Seymour Hoffman (the epitome of the hardworking rock journalist in “Almost Famous”), Bill Nighy and Rhys Ifans (supreme scene-stealers of past Curtis productions), Nick Frost (the delightful oaf of “Shaun of the Dead”).
Curtis gathers these guys and others (Rhys Darby, Ralph Brown, Ike Hamilton and Katherine Parkinson among them) as deejays and support personnel aboard Radio Rock, a tanker anchored in the North Sea broadcasting pop tunes around-the-clock, defying British government efforts to shut them down.
Mostly a hodgepodge of music montages and prolonged, occasionally funny gags, “Pirate Radio” spends a lot of time talking about how great rock music is but only captures its soul through the actual playlist of songs.