Title: “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
Directors: Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt
Cast: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Anton Yelchin (U.S. version), Selma Hayek, Jeremy Piven
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” based on the book “The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists” by Gideon Defoe, follows, well, a band of misfit pirates as their leader, the Pirate Captain (Grant) vows to win the Pirate of the Year Award while outwitting the pirate-hating Queen of England, Queen Victoria.
Overall, this Aardman Animations/Sony Pictures Animation film is a very harmless film (which is ironic to say since it made Lepra Health in Action angry with its “leper boat” joke); it’s a fine film to take the children to because adults will be just as entertained as the kids. The film has tons of whimsy, smart jokes, and cultural references that can work in any time period (unlike the “Shrek” films). Also, the fact that Defoe, who also wrote the screenplay, had so much fun with historical figures such as Charles Darwin(Tennant) and Queen Victoria (Staunton) was very fun to see on screen.
The animation itself is a reason to go see the film. Aardman Animations is known for its unique style, and to see how far this artistic style and technique has come since the early “Wallace and Gromit” days is amazing. There will always be elements of claymation that will make me wonder “How did they do that?” but “The Pirates!” especially had moments that excited me as an animation lover as well as a movie-goer.
However, I think that, despite the superb star talent (with Freeman once again playing the patient, long-suffering “John Watson” type) and witty humor, the story falls flat a bit. The problem comes around the time we meet Darwin. For some reason, the story starts to feel as if its meandering through the plot, even though the story is still hitting all of the correct plot points that it should be hitting at a certain time. Perhaps some of this could be due to a more British sensibility poking through the story, but I think that perhaps there needed to be maybe one or two more big set pieces to break up the more still moments. I think, if I’m counting correctly, there were only really two memorable action scenes in the film.
I would recommend this film for families, obviously, but also for animation lovers. Whether you’re an Aardman fan or not, there is still something interesting to be gained from watching this charming film.
One question, though–Why was Anton Yelchin used in the U.S. version of the film? I thought Russell Tovey was popular over here!