Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Yes and no. It’s definitely an enjoyable and funny flick flick. Curtis packs together some of England’s best actors on one stage, including Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, “Flight of the Conchords” funnyman Rhys Darby (Okay, okay, he’s from New Zealand), as well as American thespian Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It’s a great cast that works insanely well together, each with their own comedic strengths and styling. It’d be easy to watch them just do their thing and interact for the entire two hours. And that’s kind of the problem.
Mainly, PIRATE RADIO suffers from some weird pacing and story structure issues. At no point was I not entertained or having a good time with it, but it’s pretty flat as far as conflict (i.e. the interesting stuff) goes. The biggest issue is that you could literally cut out the entire subplot about the British government battling the pirates, which served no express purpose to the story being told. Branagh never interacts with them and his entire role is to complain about that darned rock and roll music. The whole movie could’ve taken place on the boat with one character saying, “Oh no, the British government wants to shut us down!” and it would not lose a single thing. That leaves the rest of the film to be just a series of little vignettes that are entertaining but not really connected, with a conflict shoehorned in the last few minutes that’s resolved in a fun, wacky and rather predictable way. It does work to build up the camaraderie and chemistry of the group dynamic, but that can only get you so far. And after seeing the nearly 60 minutes of deleted scenes, it’s clear there wasn’t much more “story” excised from the original British cut of the film.
Still, if you’re a big music lover, especially from the period portrayed in the film, PIRATE RADIO is worth it just for the subject matter and soundtrack, which features everyone from The Kinks to Cream to Otis Redding to The Who. The characters have such a palpable love for the genre and what it represents culturally that it’s hard not to share their sentiment. I know I went out immediately and got the soundtrack after seeing the movie.
Deleted Scenes (57:03): With 13 deleted scenes clocking in at nearly an hour, you can pretty much piece together the British cut of the movie. Most of it is simply more shenanigans with the gang onboard the ship (and one scene off it). Everything is enjoyable and would fit well in the film, but if you were hoping for more story elements, you’re out of luck.
Extra Tidbit: Seriously, the soundtrack, buy it.