Pirate Radio - Review

Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, plus a heavy dose of Swinging '60s nostalgia, fuel "The Boat That Rocked," Richard Curtis' hymn to the wild days of U.K. pirate radio. More reminiscent of his eccentric TV comedies ("The Vicar of Dibley," "Mr. Bean") than his bigscreen romancers "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill," Curtis' second outing as writer-director throws together a large cast of wackos on a boat off the east coast of Blighty. Pic generally stays afloat on the strength of its characters but sometimes threatens to sink under its overlong running time and vignettish structure.

Heavily promoted retro laffer, which launches April 1 in the U.K., and thereafter Down Under and across Europe, should do OK based on Curtis' name, though it lacks the universal appeal of his first helming outing, "Love Actually." Very Brit-specific item is likely to do more modest biz when it sails Stateside Aug. 28.

Though it had been around for a while, British pirate radio -- a direct result of pubcaster BBC's government-sanctioned monopoly on broadcasting -- mushroomed during the mid-'60s following the explosion of Britpop/rock, which the conservative BBC Radio hardly played. Operating from boats outside British territorial waters, pirates beamed a 24/7 diet of popular music to as many as 25 million listeners (half the U.K. population) before the government effectively crushed the pirates with legislation in August 1967. Many DJs migrated to BBC Radio, which gradually bowed to popular pressure, but only six years later was its broadcasting monopoly officially ended.

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