Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
From Aardman Animations, the studio that brought us Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and Creature Comforts, comes The Pirates! Band of Misfits.
Like their other work, the animation is largely of the stop-motion variety, though CGI was used to flesh out background details. The result is a wonderfully detailed experience that lends itself brilliantly to pairing with 3D. The depth of field created is fantastic and even when utilizing gags which either point or throw objects at the audience, the result is an immersive one and should you be headed to the theaters to catch this, ponying up a few extra doubloons for the glasses is well worth it.
As for the story itself, the screenplay is based on two of Gideon Defoe’s novels. He wrote the script himself so while I haven’t read the source material, one would hope fans of the books won’t be angry about their translation should anything have been changed. The story involves a pirate captain – named Pirate Captain – hoping to win Pirate of the Year. He and his crew are led astray by Charles Darwin and eventually must rescue their beloved mascot Polly from the clutches of pirate-hating Queen Victoria. Sure, it’s silly but in the right way.
The voice-work is all nicely handled. Hugh Grant was a great choice for Pirate Captain, and he has the likes of Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Anton Yelchin, Al Roker, and Ashley Jensen as his crew. David Tennant (the 10th Doctor Who) voices Charles Darwin and the amazing Imelda Staunton brings the very necessary gravitas to Queen Victoria. It’s a smart mix of talent whose abilities elevate the movie and bring the script to life.
Now, that’s not to say there isn’t anything that could not have been done better. As much fun as the ride is for about an hour, the last twenty minutes or so are a bit of a drag; almost like the energy had been sucked out of the theater by one of those cyclone vacuums – you know, the ones that don’t need bags, they never lose suction, they’re amazing, they’re … but I digress. The runtime may only be 88 minutes but you really start to feel each one as the film draws to a close, though thankfully the actual last few minutes end on a high note.
There was a bit of shuffling around by the kids in the audience, particularly in the lower-energy portion of the film, but The Pirates! Band of Misfits is far more fun for adults than most of the other kids fare of 2012 so far. Plenty of background action and scenery will go right over the heads of your children but it’s this attention to detail that make the movie a nice change of pace in the genre. And who doesn’t love pirates? This is far better than the Disney ride turned franchise (especially the sequels) and hopefully audiences will appreciate not only how much fun it is but also the artistry on display.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits hits theaters on April 27, 2012 and is rated PG for mild action, rude humor and some language.