Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an outlaw deejay in the amiable "Pirate Radio." (Focus Features)
The waters are choppy for "Pirate Radio," but then this is a film about rock and roll, so perhaps writer-director Richard Curtis figured that was the way to go.
It wasn't, but the film's not a disaster. Still, it will likely frustrate fans who remember Curtis' last writer-director project, "Love Actually," as one of the best films of its decade. "Pirate Radio" doesn't come anywhere near its predecessor, but then very few films do.
Crewed by a gaggle of well-known British actors -- Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost -- and topped with Yank Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Pirate Radio" takes place in 1960s England, when commercial rock radio stations had to operate from offshore. So it's your basic gang-of-buddies living a rock-and-roll fantasy on the not-quite high seas, with women coming by every so often for comic and romantic relief.
Curtis plays things very broadly -- let's be frank, too broadly -- with the film's plot, casting Branagh as a preposterously uptight British official and moral guardian who wants to shut down rock and roll on the airwaves.
Meanwhile our boys keep spinning vinyl, sending out songs by the Kinks, Stones, Dusty Springfield, Yardbirds and all the greats of the time. The soundtrack is, obviously, spectacular.
The film, not so much. A few sex jokes go badly, the central story is never very central at all, and the group's dedication to the power of rock and roll feels a bit quaint. In truth, "Pirate Radio" is a bit of a mess.
But an amiable mess nonetheless, with the boys' casual chemistry and the music carrying things along, it's not that hard to watch and it's great to listen to.