I truly never envisioned a day when the decade I grew up in would become a period piece, but many films of the last few years have been set during the simpler times of the 90s. SXSW selection Pirates makes the 90s feel fresh again by propelling a small-stakes story into a charming and silly comedy film. As soon as the opening credits kicked into action with three nerdy best friends dancing like idiots to rave music, I knew I was in for something special. The energy of teen party classics like Can’t Hardly Wait serves as both loving homage to the past and glimpse into the rarely-seen black culture of the decade.
Three BFFs are ringing in the new year with style—with tickets to the very exclusive New Year’s Eve “Twice As Nice” Dance Party. This night is significant for a number of reasons. One, of course, is that it’s the height of Y2K hysteria, when people legitimately thought that just maybe “the world is gonna end.” Cappo (Elliot Edusah) is looking ahead to a future away at university, where he will no longer be able to participate in the pirate radio station gig the trio has started together. Initially, they have big plans for a quiet night of Playstation and porn, or as they describe it “Tekken and titties.” However, once partier Two Tonne (Jordan Peters) gets his mind set on this explosive party mainly to impress his crush, Sophie (Kassius Nelson), nothing else matters. Game-for-anything cornball Kidda (Reda Elzaouar) is excitedly along for wherever life will take him. “Anyone who’s anyone” will be at this party, and with that, their fate is sealed: they simply must attend.
Beepers, Blockbuster, and Tomagotchi, oh my! An opportunity presents itself, and the group can obtain a set of bootleg party tickets. As in 1999’s Detroit Rock City, getting the tickets doesn’t necessarily mean one’s victory has been claimed. Hilarious asides involving a partygoer being accidentally lit aflame on the dance floor, and the delightful yet embarrassing attempt for Two Tonne to reconcile with his girlfriend by reciting the Backstreet Boys hit, “I Want It That Way,” are a prime example of Pirates flipping the script.
Pirates is the perfect fit for a company like Netflix, where its reach may have the strongest grip on connecting to viewers. It buoys the chemistry of its team with a specificity in depicting the era and a deliciously perfect soundtrack. The only thing that matters here is a midnight kiss, a perfect party, and the thrilling drama of the millennium’s approach. What is there not to love?
Pirates screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.