SXSW: Millennium comedy Pirates gets by on charm

This isn’t your average bro comedy.
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Pirates featuring Elliot Edusah, Reda Elazouar, Jordan Peters. // Courtesy of Charlotte Croft

Comedies about groups of dudes on crazy misadventures is a subgenre rife with potential problems. Movies like The Hangover or Superbad tend to turn these stories into raunchy bro-down odysseys that involve the central group of man-children engaging in one problematic encounter after another. It’s an easy story to misjudge and get wrong.

Fortunately, that’s not the case with actor-turned-director, writer, and producer Reggie Yates and his film Pirates. Yates’ movie about three friends attempting to get into a New Year’s Eve party at the dawn of the new millennium isn’t a cringefest, but instead a surprisingly sweet movie about the prospect of growing up.

Bonded since they were young, Londoners Cappo (Elliot Edusah), Two Tonne (Jordan Peters), and Kidda (Reda Elazouar) rose to local prominence after exposure on Pirate Radio as the Ice Cold Crew. They spent their school days bumming around in Cappo’s Peugeot 205 and dreaming of the future.

Now they’re 18. It’s New Year’s Eve 1999, and the boys are ready to take the new millennium by storm. They just need to snag tickets to the biggest party of the year.

The friendship between the three young men works so well as each has their own distinct personality.

Cappo, a university student, is excited to see his friends while home on break, but his joy is tempered by some difficult news he needs to break. Two Tonne, the group’s resident dreamer, slacks off at his day job and hustles with his own pirate station by night in hope of stardom and catching the eye of his dream girl, Sophie (Kassius Nelson). Elazouar’s scene-stealing Kidda seems most at home with himself, doing odd jobs for his uncle and happily playing on his Tamagotchi.

Given the time-specific sandbox Pirates plays in, Yates fills every frame with as many nostalgic reminders as possible. PlayStation 1 is hip. Flip phones are status symbols. Fly leather jackets and some of the most garish suits imaginable are the height fashion.

On the surface, all these references might seem hollow, but those vibes are essential to Pirates’ overall success, existing on a level that’s just important as the central friendship.

Simplicity is ultimately the name of the game here. Rather than ratchet up the tension or engage the possibility of farcical comedy, Pirates plays things relatively straight.

The hurdles the trio faces throughout their evening are relatively low stakes. That allows Yates to focus instead on character development and the bond Cappo, Two Tonne, and Kidda share—something far more interesting than low-hanging scatological humor. 

While Pirates doesn’t do anything new with its genre, it does effectively capture the feeling of the turn of the millennium. Yates’ film shares a spirit with late 90s early aughts British indie comedy—which is appropriate to its setting—but feels fairly unique given it was made by someone who was roughly 16 at that time.

Pirates may look like a “one crazy night” film. Instead, it’s a sweet tale of friendship coasting along thanks to a terrific main trio exuding oodles of natural charm.

Categories: Culture