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Friday, December 1, 2023

Life + Arts

Renegade rock story entertains

Pirate Radio is a sidesplitting adventure for rock-loving moviegoers.

This underground sensation sets the scene in the ’60s. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and other legendary British rock groups have taken the world by storm, but stodgy British laws limit broadcasts of these groups to one hour per day.

Much to the outrage of prudish government minister Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh), Radio Rock evades British laws by dropping an anchor in international waters and constantly broadcasting rock ‘n’ roll from a boat.

Viewers discover the unforgettable ensemble on the Pirate Radio ship through Carl (Tom Sturridge), an awkward high school dropout whose mother sends him to the boat’s world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

The claim of Carl’s mother that life on the renegade radio station will straighten him out is clearly questionable. When Carl says that his father ran away from his socialite mother before he was born, viewers naturally speculate which of the disc jockeys on the boat is his father.

Before the big reveal, Carl endures several hilarious and unsettling scenes where these unsavory, greasy rock ‘n’ roll legends all act as surrogate father figures when he falls in love for the first time.

Dave (Nick Frost), a portly ladies’ man, tries to set Carl up with random groupies. Sex symbol Gavin (Rhys Ifans) hands Carl a condom, and then helpfully suggests that he washes it out when he’s done with it so it can be reused.

The ensemble also includes the fantastically gruff, tell-it-like-it-is rock DJ ‘The Count’ (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Midnight Mark (Tom Wisdom), the scraggly Smooth Bob (Ralph Brown) and several other colorful characters.

Audiences bond with them while watching their airwave antics and heartbreaks, making for an emotional finale when the characters must decide to abandon their dream or fight for the freedom represented by Radio Rock.

While a few gags will test audiences’ patience in accepting the characters’ quirkiness, this carefree period piece will amuse as an ensemble comedy about the timeless battle between artists and those who seek to censor their work.

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