Pirate Radio (known as “The Boat that Rocked” in the UK) doesn’t have much of one it and really doesn’t matter.
VERY loosely based on pirate radio stations that broadcast off the coast of England in the 60’s, the cool DJ’s on the old tanker Radio Rock play groovy music for the adoring masses while uptight squares in the British government try to shut them down.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is the lead DJ and lone American on the ship, The Count. The Count constantly pushes the envelope on what he and the other DJs do and say on the air. The other characters fill somewhat standard roles: the sexy DJ, the fat horny DJ, the burned out stoner DJ, etc. Rhys Darby (best known as Murray from The Flight of the Concords) stands out as the comic DJ who can’t seem to get any fans, on or off the ship.
This is one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory. Across the board the actors make the most of their generic roles and the result is a very funny movie. January Jones shows up briefly as a bride for one of the DJs and her scenes are surprisingly hilarious. Emma Thompson also comes onboard for a cameo and she makes the most of her few minutes. Almost nothing serious ever happens on the boat, even as they become aware of the government’s increasingly aggressive attempts to shut them down and the movie is better for it.
It almost feels like there are two movies here; the scenes on the boat alternate with scenes of Kenneth Branagh, the head government tight ass, complaining that his minion, Mr. Twatt (yes, really) can’t find a way to shut down the pirate radio broadcasts. The scenes with Kenneth Branagh are truly played as farce, with lots of puns and innuendo revolving around Mr. Twatt’s name.
The movie features wall-to-wall classic tracks from the middle to late 60’s: The Who, The Stones, Hendricks, Dusty Springfield and much more. The only band missing is The Beatles. I blame Yoko.
If you enjoy the movie, be sure to check out the deleted scenes. There are 50 minutes of them! All the deleted scenes are as funny as scenes that made the movie and some of them are even more hilarious. My favorite deleted scene shows the DJs invading a competing pirate radio boat. There’s a nice introduction to the deleted scenes by the director, explaining that the scenes were only cut because the first cut of the movie was almost three hours long and these were the easiest to cut, even though he enjoyed them and thought they represented excellent work from his cast.