Aardman Animations, who brought us Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and Flushed Away, again delights us with another stop-motion, clay animation gem, The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Maintaining their lofty reputation, Pirates! entertains and amazes with intricately detailed claymation and charming comedy for all ages.
Based on a book, The Pirates! Band of Misfits weaves an unusual tale about a struggling pirate crew at the time of Queen Victoria. The crew is lead by the Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) who seeks the prize of Pirate of the Year. The coveted award seems so out of reach for the poor Pirate Captain, who is not nearly as plunderous and cutthroat as Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) or
Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek). However, after an opportune acquaintance with the hapless Charles Darwin (David Tennant) and discovering that the crew's mascot parrot, Polly, is actually the rare dodo bird, the Captain formulates a fail proof plan to win the title of Pirate of the Year. Whilst undertaking the Captain's scheme, the crew are met with a troublesome monkey, kooky scientists, culinary conundrums and Queen Victoria herself (Imelda Staunton).
I loved this movie. The voice acting was marvellous with Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant and Imelda Staunton delivering their characters with utmost hilarity. The humour was both silly, appealing to kids, and quick-witted for us adults, often with lightning speed references that made you double-take. Since the production was British, I always find the jokes are much more understated with less emphasis on grandeur and modernity. As a result, Aardman's productions always come across as timeless, so even my grandkids in 30 years time will find Pirates! hysterically funny. The story too was surprisingly original and unpredictable. When I first heard about this pirate animation I thought it was riding on the coattails of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise spinning yet another maritime yawn-fest. Instead this film redefined our conceptions on certain historical figures, with a story that was both unexpected and enthralling.
I love that a major animation studio out there is still using classic techniques of stop-motion in this current CGI dominated medium. In my humble opinion, I am more impressed with quality stop-motion as opposed to computer-animation (although Pirates! does have a little CGI). There's more of a sense of depth and realism let alone shear craftsmanship and perseverance involved in the painstakingly tedious process. The meticulous detail in this animation is astounding, even examining the Pirate Captain's beard is remarkable. Furthermore, the greatest precision was also involved with the sound design, which was amongst the best I have ever heard. As an aspiring sound designer myself I am jealous and in awe of the sound crew for this production. Bravo!
All in all, The Pirates! Band of Misfits was a highly entertaining, swashbuckling adventure into the fantastic world of Aardman. With endearing voice acting, amazing claymation, impeccable sound design, an incredible story and plenty of booty, what could go wrong? A must for kids! I'd give it an 8 out of 10.
Directed by Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt. Written by Gideon Defoe (screenplay). Starring Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Lenny Henry, Brian Blessed, Russell Tovey, Anton Yelchin, Brendan Gleeson etc. Country: UK, USA Language: English