The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists!
3.5/5   US title: The Pirates! Band of Misfits
dir Peter Lord
scr Gideon Defoe
prd Julie Lockhart, Peter Lord, David Sproxton
voices Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Russell Tovey, Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen, Jeremy Piven, Brian Blessed, Salma Hayek, Lenny Henry, Peter Lord
release UK 28.Mar.12, US 27.Apr.12
12/UK Sony 1h28
The Pirates!
Ahoy, me hearties: Darwin, Captain, No 2 and Polly

grant freeman staunton
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Pirates! Aardman returns to hand-crafted clay-mation for this riotous seafaring romp. The film is almost too crowded with witty visual and verbal gags to catch on a single viewing. Although it's also too corny to be a real classic.

The Pirate Captain (voiced by Grant) never gets any respect, especially with the Pirate of the Year competition gearing up. But his first mate (Freeman) and rag-tag crew (Tovey, Gleeson and Jenson) are fearlessly loyal. While accumulating plunder to win the award, they accidentally hijack a scientific ship and then travel with Charles Darwin (Tennant) to win a science prize in London. But this means that the crew needs to get dangerously close to venomous pirate-hater Queen Victoria (Staunton).

The continual assault of humour includes smart sight-gags and throwaway lines of dialog, some of which are so deranged that we can't quite believe what we've just heard. And along the way, the filmmakers play with every aspect of pirate lore including, most importantly, loyal parrot sidekick. The fact that Polly is clearly a dodo gives the plot its rather silly trajectory. There are also several hilarious nods to Victorian-era figures.

All of this gives the skilled animators plenty to work with, and the sets and costumes are packed with clever details. Combine this with the rapid-fire story, and it's impossible to get bored. On the other hand, the non-stop nuttiness might exhaust some viewers, especially since it often seems to come at the expense of coherent action and a more urgent plot. But it's blissfully enjoyable.

Indeed, the general chaos is a lot of fun, especially since the characters are so charming. As the Captain, Grant expertly combines blustering bravado with childlike joy. We understand why his crew members follow him like puppies, and as he faces a Big Moral Dilemma, we pretty much know where things will end up. By contrast, the first mate and Darwin are a bit dull, although other side characters have distinct traits that are exploited hilariously by the script and animators. So even if the film is never much more than amiably amusing, it keeps us yo-ho-hoing right to the end.

cert u themes, some innuendo 26.Mar.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall