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“Pirates! Band of Misfits” – Review (POSTIVE)

April 29, 2012

I’m such a fan of all things Wallace & Gromit; mainly it’s thanks to the company who created them, Aardman Animation. As soon as I saw the preview for “Pirates! Band of Misfits” I was taken back. It’s back to the old school stop motion animation style, full of colorful characters, and a funny British cast included. Peter Lord returns to the director’s chair after 12 years, last time was “Chicken Run”, still a classic. And while the jokes may be a little too main stream for it’s own good, the charm is still intact.

After years of humiliation and failed attempts to win the coveted Pirate of the Year Award, the (in)famous pirate simply named, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), and his oddball crew take on the cream of the pirating crop – Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), Peg Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) – in a race to pillage the most booty. They soon cross paths with lovelorn scientist Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who persuades the Captain that the crew’s prized ‘parrot’, Polly, could be the answer to the ‘untold riches’ they are searching for. Their adventure takes them to Victorian London where they meet Darwin’s sidekick, a ‘man-panzee’ of sorts named Mister Bobo, and the notorious pirate-hating Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) herself. It soon unfolds that Darwin’s motives for helping the crew are not what they seem, and the Queen has an evil hidden agenda of her own. The Pirate Captain must choose between basking in the glory of being crowned Pirate of the Year, or staying faithful to his trusted crew.

One thing I liked about this movie is that it maintains a balance for kids and adults. It does have plenty of slapstick to entertain 9-year-olds, but there are jokes scattered throughout that will go over their head instantly, and that’s when the adults begin to laugh. You’ve got this very likable supporting pirate named Albino Pirate, you can probably guess why, there are references to Jane Austen, and the elephant man himself, John Merrick. One usually wonders if this was a smart movie by the filmmakers, less we forget this was an entirely British produced movie, so it should be no surprise that it will be dominated by British humor.

The movies really only mistake I think is something new they’re trying out in this film, that they’ve never done before in their previous films,  mainstream modern references. It mixes and mashes and I don’t think it was the right sort of recipe to pull off. Like when Pirate Captain refers to his crew as a ‘crew’ in the street sense of the word, “Yo”, and then he makes a gang sign. Really? We’re actually going there? In a Pirate movie? It’s more or less nitpicking on my part, but it doesn’t ruin the comedy experience. The animation is top notch here, say what you will about Pixar, Dreamworks, or what have you, but nothing beats good old fashion stop motion animation, it just adds to the pile of charm these kind of movies emulate.

GRADE: A-

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