Mar 4, 2013

[Movies] The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

I'm a huge fan of Aardman Animations, especially given how badly I got hooked on the initial Wallace & Gromit films. They've expanded into a number of different ventures (such as the Shaun the Sheep series) and of course a few feature-length movies in partnerships with other studios.

This time around their latest claymation feature involves pirates, scientists and an award for Pirate of the Year. But more importantly, the movie features the quirky brand of humor that is pretty much synonymous with Aardman creations. And that means witty one-liners, ridiculous situations and a good amount of slapstick to boot.

And while this movie isn't quite my favorite Aardman creation compared to some others (yes, Gromit owns a special part of my heart forever), it's still a fun little adventure. And besides, I'm always going to be happy to see that the stop-motion animation field continues to thrive despite the increased popularity of CGI-animated feature films.

Synopsis: The Pirates! Band of Misfits (originally released as The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!) is a 2012 stop-motion animation movie roughly based on the Gideon Defoe book of the same name. It was directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt. The movie was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2013 Academy Awards.

Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) leads an odd little band of pirates who feel one the best things about pirating involves ham. It's the time of the year for the Pirate of the Year Awards and Pirate Captain (yes, that's really his name) is determined to win the prize. But the most direct way of doing so is by plundering the most booty. Thus he and his crew endeavor to do just that, but constantly fail given their odd choice in victims, which include a ship full of kids on a field trip and one that is run by, well, naturalists.

Eventually they come across the ship carrying Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who is surprised to see that the Pirate Captain's "parrot" is actually the sole-surviving dodo in the world. Despite the protests of the first mate, Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman), Captain Pirate agrees with Darwin's plan of taking the dodo to London to present it to the scientific community. He only agrees since Darwin promised a hefty prize, which Pirate Captain hopes to use to win his award. But London is not friendly to pirates, especially given how nearly obsessive Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) is when it comes to having all pirates killed.

Now the movie is delightfully funny when you just consider the primary cast of characters alone, especially given how most of the pirates don't have actual names. So yes, you have descriptors like Albino Pirate (Russell Tovey/ Anton Yelchin), Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens (Ben Whitehead/ Al Roker) and of course the totally non-female Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen).

Admittedly I didn't immediately realize that it was Hugh Grant fulfilling the role of Pirate Captain, although in hindsight it makes perfect sense. He certainly brought an interesting aspect of his acting to fore in this movie and one that I admit I enjoyed. And how can you not love someone as quirky and ridiculous as Pirate Captain?

And of course I totally loved Mr. Bobo and his little cue cards. I guess he naturally echoes the brilliantly silent humor of characters like Gromit, although he does have the advantage of having a diverse number of cards to match precisely what he wants to say. Throw in the ridiculous costume changes as the Pirates demonstrate that they are masters of disguise and the movie has visual gags aplenty indeed.

The movie has its own unique sense of charm and I can totally see this becoming an expanded franchise should Sony Pictures decide to commit to a sequel. If anything, I'm happy that the medium continues to thrive and Aardman continues to charm audiences young and old.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits is a fun little romp on the high seas that gets 4 surprise reveals of how Polly is hidden out of a possible 5.

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