Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Pirates! An Adventure with Scientists/Band of Misfits

The Pirates! An Adventure with Scientists or Band of Misfits as it is known outside the UK for some reason, is the latest stop-motion feature from Aardman Animations, the studio behind the likes of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. It is based on the first two novels in the Pirates! Series by Gideon Defoe.

Set in 1837, the story follows the adventures of a pirate captain called Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) in his attempts to win the Pirate of the Year competition for the first time. Despite being mostly deluded and incompetent he is actually kind at heart and has the respect of his crew. He is really up against it through when it comes to winning the competition because he is a pretty rubbish pirate and is up against the cream of the piratical world which includes Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) and Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven). While attempting to rob a ship, Pirate Captain has a chance meeting with Charles Darwin (David Tennant) who notices that the ship’s parrot, Polly is in fact the world’s last Dodo. Darwin, the Captain and his crew travel to London to show the Scientific community their discovery but while there risk bumping into the staunchly anti-pirate, Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton).

As you’d expect from an Aardman production, the film is full of both subtle and not so subtle humour. One of the first things that made me laugh was the names of Pirate Captain’s crew. There is The Pirate with a Scarf (Marin Freeman), so named because he wears a scarf, The Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson) who is fat, the Albino Pirate (Russell Tovey) and the best of them all, the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen) who is a woman in a fake beard. They are great names which bought a smile to my face each time they were used. A lot of the humour comes from the book on which the film is based but it is liberally laced with Aardman’s trademark subtlety. Every shop sign or wanted poster features a pun and there are nods to the likes of Blackadder. It’s the sort of film that will take several viewings in order to see all of the jokes.


The animation is top notch, as it should be. Aardman are the masters of their art and having dabbled in stop-motion animation myself (my most popular video can be seen here), I understand the time and effort that must go into making a stop-motion feature. Aardman has come a long way from the rough and ready clay models of The Wrong Trousers but the models still maintain their distinctive style and it is obvious that care has been taken during each of the millions of frames.

The voice cast is excellent. Most of the actors are instantly recognisable but David Tennant puts on a convincing accent for his interpretation of Charles Darwin. The actors help to make the scrip very funny and I’m pleased to see that the filmmakers have stuck with a mostly British cast and stayed away from an A-List star.

Pirate Captain isn't a fan of wearing 3D glasses

The soundtrack is enjoyable and uses songs which are not only great but fit the story perfectly. You can expect to hear the likes of The Clash, Flight of the Concords and Blur.

While my girlfriend, most of the adult audience and myself enjoyed the film, the young children in the audience seemed a little bored by it. I don’t think there was enough in the film to keep the young children entertained and a lot of the humour was going over their head. It is almost like the film has been pitched at an adult audience, which is fine and worked, but with a U rating and an Easter release, lots of children will go and may be disappointed.

This is not Aardman’s best work but it was an enjoyable 88 minutes that featured plenty of laughs and a fairly interesting but in the end throw away plot. I would definitely go back to watch the sequel and will watch it again when it is inevitably shown on TV during a future Christmas period.    

7/10

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