Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked)

2009

Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked)

Critics Consensus

The good cast and rollicking soundtrack eventually drown when this comic homage to pirate radio loses its quippy steam.

62%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 162

71%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 267,014
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Movie Info

In mid- to late-'60s Britain, an unusual yet colorful subculture sprang up and thrived as a product of the upswing in British pop music, only to meet its doom within a few short years. Though the BBC functioned as the country's main source of news and music, its programmers offered very little airtime to rock & roll -- which left an overwhelming need unfulfilled. In response, small bands of "pirate" radio enthusiasts set up broadcasting towers on boats just outside of English boundary waters, and transmitted signals to an estimated 25 million listeners, 24 hours a day and seven days per week. Unsurprisingly, the DJs who took charge of these broadcasts could rival just about anyone in terms of flamboyance and outsized personalities. With Pirate Radio (released as The Boat That Rocked in the U.K.), writer-director Richard Curtis (Love Actually) travels back to the Swinging Sixties and takes a headfirst plunge into this colorful realm. The story opens in 1966, aboard a rusty fishing trawler christened Radio Rock and equipped with pirate broadcasting equipment. Here, the slightly daft elitist Quentin (Bill Nighy) presides over a motley crew of joint-toking, sex-hungry disc jockeys including Dave (Nick Frost), a heavyset boob who nevertheless considers himself a hot property with women and loves to chase skirts; "The Count" (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an American DJ who aspires to be the first person to drop an F-bomb over the British airwaves; the gloom-laden Irishman Simon (Chris O'Dowd); bonked-out hipster Thick Kevin (Tom Brooke); womanizer Mark (Tom Wisdom); Angus (Rhys Darby), a New Zealander whom nobody likes; and the only female member of the group, lesbian cook Felicity (Katherine Parkinson). These misfits pull off quite a show -- enough of one that they attain the status of national idols for the youth culture -- but the super-conservative government minister Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) detests the whole business and will do almost anything in his power to shut them down.

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Cast

Bill Nighy
as Quentin
Kenneth Branagh
as Minister Dormandy
January Jones
as Eleonore
Michael Hadley
as Mr. Roberts
Lucy Fleming
as Mrs. Roberts
Tom Brooke
as Thick Kevin
Talulah Riley
as Marianne
Emma Thompson
as Charlotte
Will Adamsdale
as News John
Stephen Moore
as Prime Minister
Bo Poraj
as Fredericks
Amanda Fairbank-Hynes
as Jemima Dormandy
Francesca Longrigg
as Mrs. Dormandy
David Sterne
as Marianne's Captain
Olegar Fedoro
as Rock Boat Captain
Duncan Foster
as Swedish Crewman
Ian Mercer
as Transfer Boatman
William Ilkley
as Commanding Officer
Edward Hancock
as Policeman
Katie Lyons
as Angus' Boat Girl
Kirsty Mather
as John's Boat Girl
Lana Davidson
as Simon's T-Shirt Girl
Tomas Andrisiunas
as Swedish Crewman
Gudmundur Audunsson
as Swedish Crewman
Kris Gummerus
as Swedish Crewman
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Critic Reviews for Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked)

All Critics (162) | Top Critics (41)

Audience Reviews for Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked)

  • Feb 06, 2015
    This is a pretty fun movie with a really likable cast and an excellent soundtrack. I don't think this film really managed to be anything more than a crowd-pleaser, but then again I don't think it was intended to be anything more than that to be perfectly honest. While the movie does have a narrative of the DJs doing their best to avoid the government shutting them down, it honestly feels more like a series of sketches, however entertaining they may be, than a full-fledged narrative. For the most part, the DJs have their own little side stuff going on but it never really affects the overall arc of the film's main narrative. It's just something to add a little flavor and color to the film's characters. And I understand that, but it feels, ironically enough, shallow. While I ended up liking all of the characters, even Kenneth Branagh's character, who had some of the funniest lines in the entire film, I was never really emotionally invested in them. Again, not that this was the film's intention. I don't want to say that they do the bare minimum as it relates to character development, but they really mostly on their talented actors to carry things as opposed to writing out fleshed-out characters with distinct personalities. They rely on the talented actors and a soundtrack in order to distract you from its flaws. It's misdirection really, putting your attention elsewhere so you don't focus on the real issues. I don't wanna sound like I'm shitting on this movie, because I genuinely had a fun time with it, but I think that the movie, ironically enough, ran out of stream before before it was over. No reason this had to be as long as it was. Maybe 105 minutes would've been good. Keep the film moving at a brisk pace. This isn't a big issue since the movie didn't feel long at all, it just didn't need to be close to two hours. There's just simply not enough material to justify it. But, again, the cast and the soundtrack does a good enough job at distracting you from that. This is a fun movie though, it was meant to be a good time and I definitely enjoyed myself whilst watching it. Something to watch, enjoy, smile, and move on to the next film. Perhaps the thing about this film, that's something that I've known for years, is how it does a great job at showcasing how important music really is for humanity as a whole. The world would be a whole lot sadder without music in it. I love film as an art form, trust me on this one, but I think music, in some ways, is far more essential to our daily lives than even films are. Music, in one way or another, is all around us. It's something that can make us happy in an instant. Some songs more than others of course. I think that's really the best thing about this film, even if it's something I've already known for a long time. This film is a fun little distraction. Flaws aplenty, but there's more than enough about this film that's good. Solid rental here...or it's worth a buy if you find it cheap, which I did.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Jul 31, 2013
    Pirate Radio stretches its plot pretty thinly over two hours and the script is fairly mediocre, but it packs a great soundtrack and a star-studded cast, and it's harmless and well-meaning enough to be watchable if not entirely successful.
    Joey S Super Reviewer
  • May 30, 2013
    Add this too the long list of films that endeavor mightily to capture the soul of rock and roll only to prostitute the admittedly bad old girl shamelessly. Cue the classics of yore, present cast et al "grooving to the beat", and cut to credits. Better to light one up, reheat the lava lamp and put on some Floyd.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jan 09, 2013
    A great comedy about 1960s rock and roll and how far people will go for their love of awesome music.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer

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