“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is a swashbuckling good time
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012
Updated: Sunday, May 6, 2012 20:05
The new animated feature “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” offers the right mix of humor, adventure and eye-popping visuals. The film is the latest release from Aardman Studios, the same company that released “Chicken Run” and the “Wallace and Gromit” series.
The stop-motion film is about a pirate captain whose name is simply Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) who has a burning desire to win an award for Pirate of the Year. The big problem, however, is that the Captain is more of a blunderer than a plunderer. He and his motley crew are basically too nice to succeed in any actual piracy. A wanted poster for the Captain offers only a measly twelve doubloons… and a free ink pen. Every time he and his gang try to rob a ship, they find that the passengers are ghosts, sick people or school children. The gang boards a ship of scientists, one of whom is Charles Darwin (David Tennant, “Doctor Who”). Darwin convinces the crew that the ship’s parrot is actually the last dodo bird in the entire world. Together, they all travel to London to present the bird to the scientific community.
The movie uses Aardman’s usual clay figurines captured in stop-motion animation. The whole look and feel of the film is terrific. Every character looks different with its own distinct features to match the individual personalities. The backgrounds give each of the places in which the story is set its own set of characteristics so there is a sense of time and place.
The diverse characters are amusing to watch. Most of the character names, such as Pirate Captain, actually describe who they are. The Captain only calls his second-in-command “Number Two,” who is distinguished by the scarf he always wears. There is a fat crew member whose name is “Pirate with Gout.” “Albino Pirate” is equally self-explanatory. The guys onboard the ship are too dumb to notice that one of their own is actually a woman in disguise, complete with a fake beard, who is called “Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate.” Each of these odd characters is unique, quirky and fully realized.
The script is witty, freewheeling and clever, a fresh take on the pirate movie genre. Many of the best jokes are of the verbal variety, some of which will probably be too subtle for young kids, but will appeal to adults. In the background of many scenes, there are jokes and puns on signs and posters. This running gag lasts throughout the entire movie, including the closing credit sequence. Kids may get a bigger kick out of the film’s visual humor, such as the volcano experiment during the segment set in the London scientific community that goes completely awry.
Underneath all of this intentional silliness, there is a lesson for the kids about doing what is right for your friends (or shipmates in this case), as opposed to doing whatever is the easiest thing that will make you wealthy and famous at their expense. Fortunately, this lesson is subtle, without becoming overly preachy. Despite the presence of such historical figures as Darwin and Queen Victoria, no one deciding to see the movie should expect anything remotely resembling actual history. The filmmakers are only having their sense of loopy fun with it.
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is silly, goofy nonsense with its own sense of style and fun-to-watch characters. It is a rollicking good time with aspects that appeal to both children and adults.
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” receives 4 out of 5 stars.