Movies: "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "The Pirates! Band of Misfits"
Movies: "The Pirates! Band of Misfits"

 

For fans of Aardman Animation, the brilliant little British studio that gave us Wallace and Gromit, your big-screen ship has come in, in the form of “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”.

 

Using mostly painstaking, stop-motion animation (as opposed to the CGI employed by Pixar among other animation houses),  Director Peter Lord and animator Jeff Newitt have created a lovable rogues’ gallery of balmy buccaneers, led by the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant), whose dream is to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award.

 

But he’s up against stiff competition this year (1837) from the likes of Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek).  As our Captain sets off to bring back some award-winning booty, he encounters a series of frustrating setbacks, not the least of which is his capture of Charles Darwin's vessel, the “Beagle”.  The naturalist swiftly realizes that the pirate crew’s pet parrot is in reality the last living Dodo bird -- and convinces the Pirate Captain to return with him to London for a chance at winning another prize, at a scientific exhibition.

 

And there’s yet another obstacle awaiting our pirates:  the small, rounded form of Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton, Dolores Umbrage in the Harry Potter movies).  She just hates pirates.  “I hate their ridiculous hats,” she explains, “and all that roaring.”  But she has to get that Dodo -- and before long, our Captain has to choose between the desire for fame and fortune and loyalty to his shipmates.

 

Ah, those shipmates.  They include the Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson), the Pirate who Likes Sunsets and Kittens (Al Roker, yes him) and my personal favorite, the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen), who just may be hiding something behind a fake-looking beard.  Darwin also gets some hilarious support from his “man-panzee”, an all-too-clever chimp butler.

 

So here we have another Aardman universe, densely populated by amusing characters, voiced by some Very Big Names, with dense bursts of humor, sometimes childish, sometimes quite sophisticated.  There are all sorts of clever historical references, with cameos by the likes of Jane Austen and the Elephant Man, and a pleasing musical score, featuring tunes by The Clash and Flight of the Conchords.

 

And there are chases on land, sea and air, trapdoors, near-executions, brilliant disguises, sea monsters, a few trollops and -- the best of all reasons to be a pirate -- Ham Night!

 

If that doesn’t get you into the cineplex, I don’t know what will.  I saw the movie in 3D, which was very nice, but you don’t really need to spend the extra bucks to enjoy its non-stop humor.   It’s rated PG, just because some of the jokes may sail right over young folks’ heads.

 

I’ll give it an A for Arrrh.... of which you will hear only one expression during the entire movie -- and which draws immediate remonstrance.

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