The time was the mid-’60s and the place was the U.K., where the powers-that-be who ran the BBC deemed the trio, plus The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and their contemporaries, “unseemly.” (It boggles the mind to imagine what those folks would make of songs like The Prodigy’s 1997 hit “Smack My Bitch Up” or R. Kelly’s latest, “Pregnant.”)

In response, a slew of reactionary broadcasters who thought the youth of Britain deserved to hear the music of their generation anchored ships off the coast of England, just out of reach of the government’s jurisdiction, and started transmitting pirate radio broadcasts in 1964.

Although the rebellion was colorful and supplied a wealth of material for books like Robert Chapman’s “Selling the Sixties: The Pirates and Pop Music Radio,” it was short lived. In 1967, the British government passed the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, prohibiting the Queen’s citizens from working on or supplying the ships that belonged to the pirate broadcasters.

Fortunately for the youth of England, the flood gates had been opened and the BBC launched Radio 1, a new station that played the previously verboten material, shortly after the demise of the pirate operations.

“Pirate Radio,” which stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Rhys Ifans and Nick Frost, is a fictional account of what might have occurred on one of the floating pirate radio stations during that heady time.

Although most reviewers are praising the movie’s stuffed-to-the-gills soundtrack – which features more than 50 tracks from the era – and giving its actors credit for doing the best they can with the material they’ve been given, they’ve been less than kind to the film’s plot and direction.

MTV’s Kurt Loder points out a longer cut of the movie (with the truly uninspired name “The Boat That Rocked”) was released in the U.K. earlier this year and tanked. In his own assessment of the film, Loder writes that it “has structural problems that no amount of editing could finesse, and in the end they capsize the picture.”

Charlie McCollum of the San Jose Mercury News gives Curtis’ effort credit for “a terrific premise,” “wonderful performances” by Seymour Hoffman, Nighy and Ifans and “a 1960s soundtrack to die for,” but concludes “as a piece of filmmaking, ‘Pirate Radio’ is a bloated, disjointed mess” the closing credits of which “simply can’t come quickly enough.”

Los Angeles Times critic Betsy Sharkey tries hard to like the movie, tipping her hat to the Stones to call it a “gas! gas! gas!,” but then faults Curtis for seeming to “run out of plot before he runs out of song rights” and cautions viewers to follow her lead and not take the film too seriously if they want to enjoy it.

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times is fairly non-committal in her assessment of “Pirate Radio,” opining, “the film makes for easy viewing and easier listening” and concluding Curtis “has nothing really to say about these rebels” but is only interested in partying and “piles on the comic high jinks, lobs the jokes and cranks the splendid tunes.”

“Pirate Radio” is playing nationwide and is rated R for all of the things that made the ’60s great. (You figure it out.)