Remember when you were a kid and being a pirate seemed like such a glamorous profession? The idea of plundering gold, dueling with swords, and sailing the open sea appeals to the kid in us all. Now that we’re older and familiar with the outbreak of piracy in Somalia though, our perspective of the pirate lifestyle has been diminished. Nevertheless, it’s still nice to hang onto the fairytale notion that being a pirate will lead to adventure and thrills. “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” captures that childhood joy, which was missing from a film like “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”
This animated adventure comedy centers on a pirate captain simply known as The Pirate Captain, voiced by Hugh Grant. He helms a pirate ship populated by a crew of mates with incredibly distinctive names, such as The Pirate with a Scarf, The Albino Pirate, and The Pirate with Gout. They aren’t the most successful pirates ever to sail the seven seas, as plague victims and ghosts populate most of the ships they rob. Yet, The Pirate Captain still has high hopes that his peers will finally deem him Pirate of the Year.
“The Pirates!” was made by Aardman Animations, which has lately been experimenting with computer-animated films such as “Flushed Away” and “Arthur Christmas.” Now the studio returns to the format they are best known for: claymation. Directors Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt create a dazzling, detailed stop-motion world full of technical magic. They certainly know how to set up a good sight gag and breath life into a chase sequence. Gideon Defoe, who adapted the script from his original book, additionally incorporates plenty of quaint one-liners into the narrative.
Between its animation and humor, “The Pirates!” looked like it might reach the greatness status of “Chicken Run” and “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.” There’s just one thing preventing the film from being on the same level of those Aardman classics: the story. The plot itself is by no means bad. It’s just a tad random and chaotic.
The film takes a weird turn when the pirates invade a ship occupied by a wimpy Charles Darwin. The father of evolution determines that The Pirate Captain’s beloved parrot, Polly, is actually the last remaining Dodo Bird. This leads to the pirates attending a science convention in London and eventually confronting the evil Queen Victoria, played Imelda Staunton in her most villainess role since Dolores Umbridge. As bizarre as this material is, it does provide a lot of laughs.
Where the Charles Darwin subplot takes up a bit too much of the movie, there are some other areas that could have used focus. There’s a female pirate amongst the Captain’s crew who has managed to pass herself off as a man. However, the subplot doesn’t amount to much and the film ignores many potentially comedic possibilities with her.
On the whole, the film does work as light family entertainment with just enough refined jokes and vibrant animation to keep kids and adults amused. It’s worth checking out at least once if you have young ones or are a fan of Aardman’s previous work. To watch the film a second time or buy it for your child’s DVD collection however, might be a stretch.
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits”
The Sony Pictures Animation release is rated PG for mild action, rude humor and some language. Running time: 88 minutes.
• Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com