The Pirates! Band of Misfits Directed by: Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt Cast: Hugh Grant, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Brendan Gleeson, Anton Yelchin Running Time: 1 hr 28 mins Rating: PG Release Date: April 27, 2012
PLOT: While trying to find a way to win the "Pirate of the Year" award, a man named Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) comes across a lonely scientist named Charles Darwin (Tennant).
WHO'S IT FOR?: Especially with the few commercials I've seen, while this may look like it's for younger kids, it is absolutely not. The intelligent spirit of Pirates! is one with much more wit than any regular "kids" movie, and can be enjoyed more by audience members who actually understand the true history behind featured characters like Darwin, Queen Victoria, and more.
EXPECTATIONS: Oh no, was that a "Yo" joke in a cutesy preview for this one? And, is this still the time of year when bad animation comes out? That season ends around May when Pixar movies generally come out, yeah? And no, I haven't seen much Wallace and Gromit in my life, but I can appreciate any type of labored filmmaking when I see it.
Hugh Grant as The Pirate Captain: Grant channels his flamboyance into a very likable voice-acting role, this one taking obvious inspiration from how John Cleese generally talks. Pirate Captain is a funny character on his own, with his determination always overcoming his naiveté. Is it wrong to say that it's much better that Grant sounds like someone else when bringing this character to life? Score: 7
David Tennant as Charles Darwin: It's funny to throw a lonely scientist into the chaotic shenanigans of Pirate Captain and his title gang - it's even funnier when that "nerd" is Darwin. Pirates! creates an enjoyable character out of Darwin by having great fun with the historical figure's true history, which is bound to permanently confuse little ones, or have them seek out the reality. Either way, Tennant enlivens Darwin with an endearing nebbish nature, as he's just one determined geek who just wants to win over a girl. Score: 6
Rest of Cast: The Pirates! Band of Misfits is full of names you'll recognize, but the same can't always be said for the voices (which is nice). Pirate Captain's shipmates, whose names are their literal characteristics, are voiced by people who all trade off playing their different one notes so that together it still sounds colorful. For example, Anton Yelcin as "The Albino Pirate" voices his unique character with an emphasis on the softness of his voice, or Brendan Gleeson earns a laugh by focusing on his "big lug" charisma as "The Pirate with Gout." The one missed opportunity is Al Roker as "The Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens," which is a funny archetype, but barely has memorable screentime. Score: 7
TALKING: A small tip of the cap to this movie's extreme creativity, Pirates! finds a plethora of jokes to make about the sea misfits without once using an "R" pun. The script is instead loaded with giggly dialogue, sometimes with smarter references to things like science or Jane Austen, but also sometimes not. In general, the humor of The Pirates! Band of Misfits doesn't entirely rely on obvious visuals. Score: 7
SIGHTS: Though this is a film that well earns its ticket prices, the 3D is not a necessary component to getting the ultimate experience. All of the visuals are impressive on their own, especially considering the detail that goes into every single thing being filmed, from the modeling to how such art pieces were captured with a camera. Plus, if there is any concern about whether this type of animation will feel natural - it's fluid and mesmerizing, performing visual feats that almost seem impossible. Pirates! immerses you into its world, and no other form of animation seems better. Of course, this one will have you clamoring for behind-the-scenes footage, in hopes of understanding the mechanics to this animation's magic. Score: 10
SOUNDS: This is how soundtracks should be done for all movies that want to stand out. The Pirates! Band of Misfits soundtrack amplifies the movie's punk rock nature, and embraces the classics of this musical genre. Songs like "London Calling" by the Clash, or "Fiesta" by the Pogues accentuate this movie's attitude for fun, which is both harmless but rogue. Oh, and this one features the actual version of "Alright" by Supergrass, and not the morbidly offensive sample used by astronomical dolt Travie McCoy for Yogi Bear, nonetheless. Score: 8
BEST SCENE: It's tough to pick a single moment that charmed me the most, but I laughed much more than I should have when Pirate Captain addressed the scientists as "nerds" without any type of hesitation.
ENDING: Pirate Captain earns the kudos he deserves, while Charles Darwin is dropped off at the Galapogos to do some "studying."
QUESTIONS: How does one even make a movie like this? Excuse me, I'm heading off to Youtube ...
REWATCHABILITY: Unlike many movies of this type, this is the type of animation movie that is so efficient and full of amusement that multiple re-views would hardly take away the joy of witnessing this movie. There's no particular low point in this movie - all of it would be fun to experience again.
While other animation companies are making films on computers with scripts that focus on pop culture references, the punk rockers at Aardman Animation are doing it, as Sid Vicious once sang with no reverence to Frank Sinatra, their way. This stop-motion movie is vibrant with its dedication, both to story and its well-warranted unique visual experience, with a strong complacency of being different from the rest of the kids. While the movie is enjoyable for its inspired individualism, it also finds great entertainment in a plethora of jokes related to all things pirates, without the supply running dry. Instead, the movie's stream of constant laughs keep this one afloat, making it an enjoyably rambunctious journey from beginning to end.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10