Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

The Pirates! Band of Misfits is the latest stop motion animated film from Aardman Studios, the folks behind Wallace & Gromit. The original title in the UK was "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!" It's a much better and funnier title, but somebody in marketing must have got twitchy about releasing a film for kids with the word "scientist" in the title in America, where we fear science. Especially if that Scientist is Charles Darwin, which it is.

The hero of the story is a luxuriantly bearded pirate captain named Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), leader of a loyal ragtag crew with names such as "Pirate with a Scarf" and "Pirate with Gout". He dreams of winning the prestigious Pirate of the Year Award, but is outclassed by his far more cutthroat competition. Pirate Captain's fortunes change when he stumbles across Charles Darwin's (David Tennant) ship, The Beagle. Darwin, while bargaining for his life, notices that Pirate Captain's parrot, Polly, is actually a Dodo, thought extinct for 150 years. Darwin hatches a plan to bring the bird to a science convention in London, bringing himself lots of acclaim and, he hopes, the love of Queen Victoria (who HATES pirates).

The movie is unabashedly silly, playful, good natured and good fun. It's not as great as the Wallace & Gromit movie, but not much out there is. The silliness and the historical setting reminded me very much of Monty Python, which is a very good thing in my book. I enjoyed the voice cast, which, in addition to Hugh Grant and David Tennant, also included Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, Brendan Gleeson, and Salma Hayek.

The animation was in Aardman's trademark style. I always prefer their stop motion animated stuff over their CGI stuff. It's just more fun to look at. You can see the craftsmanship necessary to make a movie like this. I love stop motion animation and it's always a treat to see a feature come out, especially when Aardman is behind it.

The Pirates: Band of Misfits: In an Adventure with Scientists! is good, kids and adults will get a lot of laughs out of it. Lots of jokes about beards and monkeys and Queen Victoria's big butt, and of course, pirates. Lots and lots of pirates.

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