Movie Review: Aardman Animation’s newest film makes pirates fun again

By Will Ashton |
The Pirates! Band of Misfits | Directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt | Rated PG

After the snoozefest that was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and the messes before it (Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End), film fans have been yearning for pirate fun at the theater again.

Sure, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a lot of fun.  But that movie came out nine years ago; it has almost been a decade since pirates were fun at the movies.

But finally, dear lads, The Pirates! Band of Misfits has come to save the day.

The new movie from Aardman Animation, the team behind Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run, this new stop-motion, claymation film follows Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his mismatch crew who attempt to win the prize of Pirate of the Year, despite being the laughing stock of the pirate community.

In their attempt to steal loot from passing ships, the crew stumbled into Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who discovers that the pirates’ pet parrot, Polly, is actually a dodo bird and the last of his kind. Together, they present their scientific discovery in hopes that they will win prizes galore and win fame and the coveted pirate prize after all.

Directors Peter Lord (Chicken Run) and Jeff Newitt are still able to bring their signature charm and energy into their latest effort, particularly inside the animation, for which this film presents some of the best animation the studio has ever produced. Settings, details and sight gags remain top notch as always.

Their usual cleverness, however, is not in top form here. A number of jokes came across as tired, random and, dare I say it, flat. But this doesn’t mean that the film is without its humor. Despite a rather weak opening, it is still able to keep its jokes coming and their sense of comedic timing remains impeccable as always. It’s the script, written by Gideon Defoe, who also wrote the book the movie is based on, that seems less than spectacular here.

As Pirate Captain, Grant finally rids himself of his tired timid gentleman routine in order to play the clueless, ego-driven nature of the character. And surprisingly, he does a great job with it. He sinks himself into the character so well, you’ll completely forget it’s him and grow onto his character.

At the end of the day, though, it’s the Aardman Animation that makes this film work. Their sense of constant energy, charm, earnestness and cheekiness is what makes their films so great. While sadly not as cheeky this time as in past films, it brings twice the earnestness, with room for energy and charm as well.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits does not live up to their work in the Wallace and Gromit adventures, Chicken Run, or even last year’s wonderful Arthur Christmas, but the movie remains comparable to the studio’s other film, Flushed Away — not particularly great on many levels, but still engaging enough to pass the grade. It’s not their best film; in fact, it might actually be among their worst based on their track record, but it’s still good fun and much more worthy of the pirates’ honor than the Pirates sequels will ever be.



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