Review: 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, April 27, 2012
4/27/12 at 4:08 AM
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits" is a funny, intelligent stop-motion animated film, and in this case, that's a disappointment. It's not as funny and intelligent as it should be.
It's an amusing - if not terribly original - idea to imagine a time when pirates roamed the West Indies in the 1830s. It's a silly chuckle to realize the bumbling pirate crew is led by the simplistically named Pirate Captain, a fellow lacking in self-esteem, as he heads a crew with names like the Pirate with Gout and the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate.
It's a sweet-natured theme to watch Pirate Captain attempt for the umpteenth time to win Pirate of the Year honors, with antics and slapstick galore. But like this British-based production company's last film, "Arthur Christmas," it feels like there's an edge and a focus that's missing from the mix of comedy and character-building.
Produced by the good people at Aardman Animations, "Pirates!" is made by artists responsible for the wonderful Wallace and Gromit productions. So the bar for their Brit-style cartoon comedies has been set incredibly high.
Their track record on movies like "Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit" and "Chicken Run" tells me that this pirate adventure based on Gideon Defoe's book series should have been hilarious, rollicking, full of boundless energy and wit.
Instead, the film sometimes feels as clunky and unmemorable as the title. That's probably because the filmmakers seem to have been confused as to what direction they wanted their animated tale to take.
I couldn't help but think while watching "Pirates!" that the script was written by adults bent on making adults chuckle at innuendo and sly one-liners and not minding that the comedy was sailing over the heads of your average 8-year-old animated-filmgoer.
Meanwhile, I saw the animation as a step backward for Aardman, employing computer-generated images to a degree that might satisfy kiddos, but by that turn lost some of its stop-motion charm and purity for me.
By the reaction of the packed audience of little ones I watched the film with, I'm going to guess that the kids had the same reaction that I had regarding "Pirates!": It was OK.
I expected more, and that made me say "Aargh!" for the wrong reason.
I don't think there was nearly enough mischief for this crew to get into. Far more swashes should have been buckled by author Defoe in his screenwriting debut.
Too often the plot of a pirate attempting to earn enough booty to win Pirate of the Year concentrated on playing to the 3-D potential.
While not as strong a story-driven tale as past Aardman efforts, "Pirates!" earns its chuckles through Brit wit.
Anglophiles will find a smile for moments like "London Calling" as the soundtrack for a trip to see Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton in a wicked take on her highness) or for fast-firing little quotes ("London smells like Grandma," a boy reports).
The story is occasionally as highly evolved as having Charles Darwin (David Tennant, of "Doctor Who" fame) as a major character who has a very amusing sidekick: a monkey who manipulates with great dexterity some title cards ("Uh" followed by "Oh" when his master is in a fix).
When a character with no lines is the film's most fun treat, you know that "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" is not destined to be among Aardman's most cherished titles, but it has its clever moments.
‘THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS’
Stars: voices of Hugh Grant, Imelda
Staunton, David Tennant, Martin
Theaters: (in 3-D) AMC Southroads
20, Cinemark Tulsa, Cinemark Broken
Arrow, Starworld 20, Owasso,
Sand Springs; (in 2-D) Eton Square
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Rated: G (mild action, rude humor
and some language)
Quality: (on a scale of zero to
Original Print Headline: Lost at sea
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
"Pirates! Band of Misfits" isn't as strong a story-driven tale as past efforts from Aardman Animations. Sony Pictures Animation/Courtesy