Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Pirate radio – The boat that rocked
Sorry Philip Seymour Hoffman, I apologize Kenneth Branagh, my condolences; Nick frost, Jack Davenport, Rhys’ Darby and Ifans and to the rest of the cast. None of you are the star of this film, you’ve been shown up, you’ve been outdone and you’ve been made to look small. I sincerely feel bad for all of you. You all, despite a valiant effort, pale in comparison to the true star of the movie. The soundtrack! I’m not typically the type of guy who buys movie soundtracks, but I will more than likely be buying this one. A Stellar collection of rock, pop, soul and blues from, what the filmmakers so helpfully remind us is, the greatest era of British music in history. It seems obvious that a movie about a pirate rock radio station would have a lot of music in it, but they could have easily done this wrong. They could have easily stuck to the well worn and well known hits of the day and the majority of the population would have still enjoyed this movie, but it became apparent right from the beginning of the movie that filmmakers had a true love of the music as it is presented front and center and in several scenes actually steal the scene from the actors. A prime example of this is played out during a wedding scene where one of the shipmates is marrying a woman named Elinore, you’re probably already humming it to yourself (if you’re anything like me you are) and my guess is when they were making pirate radio (called the boat that rocked in Britain) they were thinking the same thing, so the scene closes with the entire cast singing “Elinore” by the turtles as the man carries his (soon to be ex) wife down the hall and into their room. I could discuss the music in the film all day, so I will forcibly remove myself from the topic. You’ve heard about the tutti fruity, now let me tell you about the whomp bomp a loo bomp ba lomp bam boom.
The story centers on a young man whose mother insists he spend some time on the boat that hosts the radio station “Radio Rock”, her motives are questioned later in the film, but I won’t discuss them here as it would be giving way too much away. While this is supposed to be the A storyline it quickly takes B billing to the frat lifestyle the boat offers. They spend a decent amount of time on each character and their quirks and before too long you feel like you’ve been on the boat with them the whole time. You get to meet the roster of radio personalities; the (fucking) count (Hoffman) and his love of expletives, midnight Mark (Tom Wisdom) who rarely speaks, even when he’s broadcasting (actual quote “wow *puffs cigarette* now *flips on new record*”), Angus (Rhys Darby) who no one likes, Doctor Dave (Nick Frost) who gets a LOT of woman for a big guy, News John (Will Adamsdale) who would gladly die for the news and weather, especially the weather, “smooth” Bob the dawn treader (Ralph Brown) who’s seen so infrequently that no one on the boat knows who he is when he first shows up, Simon (Chris O’Dowd) the morning guy and all around likeably awkward guy and last but not least “the legend” Gavin (Rhys Ifans) who seriously has the best wardrobe of the film, no one can pull off a purple velour suit like him. As well there’s the staff and the man in charge of the boat Quentin (Bill Nighy, in a roll showing that the dude can dance!) who runs the boat less like a father figure and more like that naughty uncle that your mom is probably right in not wanting you to spend too much time with.
On the other side of the dial is government agent Sir Alistair Dormandy (Branagh) who is desperate to get these, not quite, illegal stations off the air. He seeks the aid of a “clever young man” in Jack Davenport’s Twatt (pronounced exactly how you think it is), his name is the cause of many a laugh in the film, what can I say other than it’s a cheap joke, but boy does it work. I laughed each and every time I heard Kenneth Branagh say it. After several failed attempts he discovers a way to get the stations shut down, which directly results in the climax of the film, which is best not discussed as I’m not a fan of spoilers. The juxtaposition used between the raucous ship and the “stiff-upper-lip” government types is a wonderful running gag in the movie. On Boxing Day the Ship gets fortune cookies with facts in them and laughs it up when they realize it wasn’t a joke, Sir Alistair gets a joke, reads it to himself, chuckles and never reveals what the joke is “that’s enough excitement for the day.
There’s something wonderful about a cast of actors who understand drama and comedy on equal levels and pirate radio has this in spades. The comedy is flawlessly timed and the drama seems real, not phoned in or overacted, like most comedic actors like to do. In fact my only real complaint with the movie revolves around the editing. A lot of the movie is shot like a music video so there are jump cuts galore and most of the time this worked, but I feel it became a little too much. That aside, I say come for the music, stay for the comedy. It’s well worth it
Four Twatts out of Five