An article that I wrote for Castle Co-Op, a online publication about Film, T.V, Music and Pop Culture, published on April 7th, 2012.
Pirates! A Band of Misfits is the latest instalment of stop-motion films from Peter Lord and his Aarman Animations team – best known for its creation of Wallace and Gormit and Chicken Run. Adapted from Gideon Defoe’s wonderfully silly series Pirates!, the film follows the misadventures of “The Pirate Captain” (played by the ever-so charming Hugh Grant) and his crew of unorthodox pirates. In an attempt to win the prestigious Pirate of the Year award, the Pirate Captain and his merry crew hatch a plan involving an insecure Charles Darwin (played by the 10th Doctor himself, David Tennant) and the devious pirate hating Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton aka Delores Umbridge).
Pirates! would have definitely thrilled me had I been an eight years old again. However, the years of ‘growing-up’ have unfortunately made me somewhat critical about this film in a very disappointing way. It wasn’t a bad movie by any means. The casting choice was excellent with all the fine actors providing fun and entertaining performances. Leading star Hugh Grant is funny as the bumbling Pirate King. David Tennant also does an outstanding job as Charles Darwin, the great scientist who low self-esteem issues. Martine Freeman as The Pirate with a Scarf does a nice job playing the Pirate King’s second in command, a supporting role in which he regularly excels in (a la Watson). The one star of the film that steals the show however is the hilarious Mr Bobo, Charles Darwin trained monkey servant or ‘man-panzee’.
My main problem with Pirates! lied with the story. It was just average: nothing more, nothing less. The entire movie felt flat and the excitement factor was lacking. Sure, there were a few chuckles here and there, but unfortunately, it fell short of my expectations. I was hoping that Pirates! could achieve the same level of greatness that Shrek had previously done. Shrek was a film that appealed to all age groups. It had the cartoon silliness for the children, the subtle pop cultural references that the adults loved, and a story that engaged with the audience, allowing us to feel for the characters and their plight.
Though the quality of the storyline was unexciting, Pirates! did make up for it with their superb animation. I’ve always had a fascination with stop-motion animators simply because of their divine patience. This superhuman power of patience is perfectly demonstrated with the 85 minute long clay-mation feature Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – a film that took about 5 years to make with the rate of one second of film per day! A normal animation feature of the same length would typically take just about a year, or max two, to make. Peter Lord did a great job with the directing of Pirates! He has seemingly taken full advantage of the new advancements in CGI technology, allowing the viewer to fully immense themselves in the clay-mation world. The use of 3-D however was disappointing. It just wasn’t really necessary and with a pirate film such as this, there could have done so much more. Clips of swords pointing out of the scene, pirates swinging out towards you, cannonballs flying towards you; these are just a few examples that Aarman team could’ve done to incorporate the 3-D aspect of the film.
Pirates!, for all its swashbuckling mis-adventurous fun, is an enjoyable film for the kids. Unfortunately it’s the grownups that will miss out on the fun. For those of us that have developed an adult conscious, we will be seating there, appreciating the animation and the effects, and be grateful that this film managed to entertain the children for a good hour and a half of their school holidays. To reiterate, if I had been eight years old, I would have found Pirates! to be enjoyable. Damm my recently developed adult perspective! It’s making me write bad things about pirates!