Sunday, September 23, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012) ***

PG, 88 min.
Directors: Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt
Writer: Gideon Defoe
Starring: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Lenny Henry, Brian Blessed, Anton Yelchin, Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jenson, Al Roker

I’d like to thank Aardman Animations for making a pirate movie. I’m a father of three and pirates are just about the coolest things these kids can think of. Lately, however, the only easily accessible pirates have come from Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, and many of the images in those movies are really too intense for the ages that seem to be the most pirate obsessed. It’s good to have a pirate movie out there I can trust my kids will enjoy and won’t have them waking up at 1 a.m. with nightmares.

That being said, “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is probably the least of the films produced by the famed British animation studio to date. It is made in the same claymation style that brought the studio to prominence with their “Wallace & Gromit” cartoons. It is also made with the same loving attention to detail. If you aren’t as thrilled by the story of this swashbuckler, you can still delight in all the background details and jokes, many of which are displayed more prominently during the end credits sequence.

The story involves the ship of Captain Pirate, who has lost the Pirate of the Year award for twenty years running. Frankly, he and his crew of misfits are sad excuses for pirates considering that their favorite part of being a pirate is when they have ham for dinner. One of the crew is dying of scurvy, but seems pretty upbeat about it. One is obviously a female in disguise, but everyone pretends she’s one of the guys. And, their beloved parrot is actually a Dodo bird, which had been extinct for some time when these events take place. When they run across Charles Darwin in their sad attempts to obtain some booty, he convinces them that the bird is the greatest scientific discovery of the year and that they should bring the bird to England, so he can present it to Queen Victoria and fulfill he secret love for her.

It’s all grand silliness, but the animators at Aardman obviously have a great deal of fun in making these movies. This, as all children’s movie must be these days, was presented theatrically in 3D. Aardman, luckily, doesn’t give into the temptations to exploit the format, and the film transfers seamlessly to 2D with all of its pleasures in tact. I urge anyone not entirely thrilled by the movie itself to look into the backgrounds and find all the little jokes the animators have scattered throughout. The humor is also solidly British and has more to do with listening to the words they say than watching the actions they make.

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