What got me interested in seeing Aardman Animation‘s latest animated comedy The Pirates! was the fact that, after thinking about it, I realized that I have never seen a stop motion film in 3D. A cool and unusual experience it certainly was, but how is the rest of the film?
The Pirates!: Band of Misfits, to cite the entire title, is very hit and miss. Not every cannon fired hits its target, if you will. I haven’t read the books on which the film is based so perhaps I missed out on possible in-jokes, but that isn’t to say I didn’t laugh during the film at all.
The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) – and yes, that is his name – is traveling with his odd and incompetent crew to Blood Island (it has that name because it’s shaped like some blood) to sign up for the Pirate of The Year competition. However with dreaded and infinitely more lethal pirates such as Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) and Peg-Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry), he has seemingly no chance of ever winning and is laughed off the island by the other pirates.
To prove himself worthy of the title, The Captain sets sail to find ships to plunder. After many failed attempts to find gold, he comes across the ship of none other than Charles Darwin (voice by David Tennant), who immediately recognizes The Captain’s pet “parrot”, as the highly rare dodo bird. The Captain spares Darwin’s life and brings him to London, where he is to show the dodo in a science fair or somesuch. The Captain believes that if he takes all the credit for discovering the bird, he will get the money he needs to seem a greater pirate and win the Pirate of The Year price at last.
The antagonist of the film is Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) who despises pirates with a passion and has her own plans for the dodo bird. Martin Freeman is also in the film, as The Captain’s right hand man, The Pirate with The Scarf, who acts as The Captain’s much wiser conscience in the story. The rest of the crewmembers are voiced by the likes of Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen and Russell Tovey. There’s also a pirate king (Brian Blessed) and Darwin’s butler chimp Bobo who communicates with subtitled cards. Bobo’s scenes get the biggest laughs in the movie.
So The Captain and his crewmembers don’t have actual names, as I mentioned, and I’m not sure why. Most of the other characters are named. Maybe it’s just a thing this particular group of pirates has decided to do as their own little shtick?
The Pirates is not always funny and not always intriguing but it has its share of good moments and it is one of those rare times when you might want to see a 3D screening of the film. Clay animation a la the people at Aardman is genuinely fascinating in 3D and the fact that I saw a dub, which I normally hate to do, at least spared me the pain of having to endure those blasted subtitles which are always flying in front of everything else if it’s a 3D picture. I was glad I did not have to endure that again. Pity I didn’t get to hear the original voice cast though.
Either way, The Pirates isn’t a bad film. It is nothing spectacular by any means but it isn’t bad. The animation is pretty to look at, the characters are mostly fun and there are some genuinely funny moments here and there. You can safely bring your children to see it on an afternoon if you feel like it.
But please, make sure the little ones keep quiet during the screening. After the noisy screening I attended, I wish theaters would start instructing the audience to turn off their children before the movie starts.