Friday, October 5, 2012

The Pirates! Band of Misfits Movie Review

Stop-motion animation seems to be a dying art. It used to be featured much more frequently; not all of them were targeted towards young audiences. Now we get family friendly films once a blue moon, but even then it seems like the medium is perpetuated primarily by Tim Burton. Nevertheless, we still received a great stop-motion animated film with The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012).
After years of humiliation and failed attempts to win the coveted Pirate of the Year Award, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his oddball crew take on the most renowned pirates in the world in a race to pillage the most booty. In their efforts, they cross paths with the lovelorn scientist Charles Darwin (The Doctor David Tennant), who persuades the Captain that the crew’s prized “parrot,” Polly, could be the answer to the untold riches they are searching for. Their adventure takes them to Victorian London where they meet the notorious pirate-hating Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton). It soon unfolds that Darwin’s motives for helping the crew are not what they seem, and that the Queen has an evil hidden agenda of her own. The Pirate Captain must choose between basking in the glory of being crowned Pirate of the Year, or staying faithful to his trusted crew.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits has an all-star cast. In addition to the names mentioned above, there is also Martin Freeman, Anton Yelchin, Jeremy Pivin, Salma Hayek, Brian Blessed, and Brendan Gleeson. You couldn’t ask for a more diverse array of comical UK actors for this slapstick zany adventure.
The Pirates! was animated by the same stop-motion animation crew that did Chicken Run (2000) and the Wallace and Gromit movie The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005). The animation is phenomenal to say the least. The movement is smooth, seamless, and full of intricate subtleties and detail. Similar to Gromit in the Were-Rabbit film, there is also a character with no actual dialogue. Darwin’s “Man-Panzee” is so expressive that you can still tell what is going through the character’s mind without having the character verbalizing it. That just goes to show how well this movie was animated.
Something I thought was annoying in both Chicken Run and Were-Rabbit was the blatant vegetarian and animal rights themes in them. Vegetarianism and animal rights aren’t bad, but those films got rather preachy and beat you over the head with the concepts. The Pirates did not do that, thank goodness. In fact, the pirate crew regularly had “ham night” for dinner. It was not bashing vegetarianism, I’m just glad I wasn’t having a bunch of animal-rights-thumping pirates trying to convince me to eat tofu. That would have been incredibly stupid.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits is full of zany and joyfully silly gags. There are times it feels like an old Loony Tunes cartoon with some distinctive British wit. People are hit with frying pans, causing the frying pan to take on the shape of the person’s face. The face on a painting becomes goofy and distorted after being hit by a cannonball. Skidding tire sounds are made when the pirate ship makes sharp turns. There’s also more trap door gags than you can shake a stick at. I’d hazard a guess that adults who grew up with Loony Tunes will get a bigger kick out of this movie than kids will.
The story is pretty simple and doesn’t stand out as a stellar piece of writing. It feels pretty childish, but I think that’s what makes it so fun. It’s got a Saturday morning cartoon quality to it, but it has lots of gags that will fly over kids’ head and keep adults laughing. It also has simple enough plot for young viewers to understand and enough slapstick to keep them involved. This movie might appeal most to adult viewers who are fans of Monty Python or The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Just take it as it is; a silly, slapstick comedy that the whole family will enjoy.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits was certainly a fun movie. I enjoyed it and it kept me laughing throughout. This is a perfect movie for a family movie night. Kids will love it and adults will enjoy it, too. The number of animated characters moving about on the screen at one time was impressive enough; that is very complicated and difficult to achieve in stop-motion animation. But the detail beyond that is incredible to watch. I didn’t quite love it enough to want to buy a copy of it, but I imagine most families with young kids will want a copy of their own.

What is your favorite stop-motion animated film? Comment below and tell me why!

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