Pirates! Band of Misfits is the latest offering from the wonderfully talented team of animators who brought us the Wallace & Gromit series and Chicken Run, as well as the much less well-received Flushed Away. Titled Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists in the UK, this clay-mation adventure tale contains a fair amount of fun, but lacks any serious laughs, and in the end, falls just short of being something worth recommending.
Hugh Grant lends his voice to The Pirate Captain, who, along with his band of merry men (and woman), decide to compete in the Pirate of the Year competition. As one might imagine, although the Pirate Captain’s heart is in the right place, he always seems to come up short against the big dogs of the pirate world (voiced by Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, and Al Roker). In an attempt to plunder everything he sees, The Captain stumbles upon the ship of Charles Darwin, who informs him that his trusted “parrot” could be worth a fortune. The crew sets sail for London, and comedic adventure ensues.
While there certainly is a decent amount of adventure in the film, the comedy aspect was not my cup of tea. Borrowing from the book of Tex Avery, much of the comedy in Pirates! focuses on prat falls and sight gags, which, to it’s credit, are quite good, but it’s a shame that just a little more of that comedy wasn’t put into the dialogue. Some of the best lines are delivered by Anton Yelchin’s character of Albino Pirate, and it would have been nice to hear more of the crew’s banter.
The central character of The Pirate Captain, has a blissfully ignorant way about him, sometimes acting like a dolt, and other times plotting ingenious schemes. This gave the character a somewhat inconsistent feel, and caused a slightly uninteresting character to be even more uninteresting. The rest of the characters were much more engaging, and unfortunately don’t get enough development or screen time.
If you’ve seen Wallace & Gromit, or Chicken Run, then you know what to expect as far as the animation goes in this film. One thing to note, some of the backgrounds were digitized, so clay-mation purists may be upset, but it didn’t detract from the overall look of the movie. While not breaking any new ground, it’s always refreshing to see something different than CG animation, and I always applaud the use of a different medium. This was also shot in 3D, which adds nearly nothing to the film, and only acts as a gimmick for a few stick stuff out at you moments.
Pirates! Band of Misfits is a solid animated comedy that your kids will love, and you will be able to tolerate. With Pixar dominating the market, it’s tough to watch an old-school kids movie without judging it more harshly because of it’s omission of adult undertones and themes, but sometimes it’s nice to just have fun with a movie without needing a message, or sophisticated humor. Go into the film thinking more Looney Toons, less Wall-e, and you’ll walk away smiling.