Review: The Pirates!” Band of Misfits

Stars: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton

Rated PG for mild action, rude humor, and some language. Running time 88 minutes, Comedy/Family/Adventure

Plays like: Wallace and Gromit & the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), Over the Hedge (2006)

It’s not really a surprise what anyone thinks of when pirates come to mind these days. Johnny Depp, mascara, something else from The Pirates of the Caribbean. So it’s actually kind of a surprise to me that anybody would bother with a movie involving pirates at all. Nevertheless, Aardman Productions, the people behind Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run have decided to take on this task, and they have done it well.

Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) and his crew are the epitome of pirates: loud, dangerous swashbucklers with a love of booty and ham. The problem is, Pirate Captain wants to win the Pirate of the Year Award and with how awesome other pirates are, he doesn’t seem to stand a chance. But when young scientist Charles Darwin sees a way for the crew to achieve recognition to win the prestigious award, things might be looking up for the Captain and his crew. That is, if they can survive the Queen.

If you’re not familiar with Aardman Productions work, I strongly suggest you look into it. It’s a different type of humor than it seems American animators and writers provide and in this case, it’s a good thing. Fast witted dialogue and the unique animation make it worth the ticket price alone. The animation used to only be done by stop motion, when the characters’ clothes would constantly move with each frame because the animator’s fngerprints would imprint onto the characters. I love that old school stuff and was somewhat disappointed with the introduction of their first entirely CG rendered Flushed Away in 2006. But Pirates! is a great blend of the two. In fact, I suggest staying through the credits as it scrolls down the screen with little props and pictures that cover the backgrounds throughout the film. There’s so much detail, it’s a shame to miss as much as we do but the attention to detail is what makes it as enjoyable as it is and is by definitely the star of the film.

The cast is beyond satisfactory as well. If there’s one thing I don’t care for these days in animation is the fact (specifically with 20th Century Fox and often times Dreamworks) that there’s way too much emphasis on the cast to bring in the audience. It seems they cast actors who they would have place in those roles had it been a live action movie. Robots (2005) is the first one that pops into mind. Yes, Ewan McGregor is a talented actor but what he provides is his name while his voice alone makes for a mediocre character. This is not the case for Pirates! Sure, we’ve got Hugh Grant respectively, but is there any film you can point out to someone twenty or younger that’s familiar with him? Jeremy Piven, Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson and others all do a great job no matter how small or large their part is. There’s an especially great scene when the baddest pirates around make their entrance to a pub (named “Gut Rot Pub”). The first bursts through the window, his peg leg with a metal cap at the bottom nearly creating fireworks from the amount of sparks flying everywhere. The second shoots a cannonball through the side of the building while the third arrives by whale, rocketing from the ocean. He slides out through waves of gold. It’s one example of the different style of comedy we’re not getting too much of over here with Pixar.

This is not a bad comment toward Pixar, being a fan of several of their movies. But while the singing and dancing has left their stories in favor of just that, story; this film is loaded with gags that bring Looney Tunes to mind. Don’t be surprised if a character reaches offscreen to grab a frying pan and whack somebody in the face with it. In fact, I think that actually happens at some point in the film. Once again, don’t get me wrong about American cartoons. Every one of them has their place, it’s just nice to get something a little less driven maybe.

If there’s one problem I have with the movie, it might have to do with what the film provided (great animation, voice acting, dialogue), but rather what it didn’t. While I did like this film, and as clever as it is, it could have been more fun. The moments when the pirates are travelling by map a la Indiana Jones, is the type of humor they could have used a little more of. The boat on the map that the crew is travelling in, before they get to their destination, has to contend with all the things travelling by map would provide. Pesky creases, strange drawings of sea monsters, and even the cardinal compass. Non-sensible, just funny. The film also falls prey to a few buddy/buddy cartoon cliches, but nothing to really complain about otherwise.

All in all, as mentioned above, this is worth the trip especially if you have kids. The look of it is entertaining even if you’re not a fan of the humor. Maybe just a little less stiff next time, eh?

Grade: B-

One Response to “Review: The Pirates!” Band of Misfits”

  1. I didn’t realize David Tennant was a voice in this! Now I just may have to watch it lol Plus I always did like Wallace and Grommit 😉


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