The Pirates! Band of Misfits is delightful stop-motion silliness
Featuring the voices of Hugh Grant, Jeremy Piven, and Salma Hayek. Rated G. Opens Friday, April 27, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Apparently, a whole continent of English speakers is unable to handle a title like The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists! Sure, an animated film loaded with United Kingdom accents and boasting Charles Darwin as an actual character could bring out some frightening responses in the U.S. Bible states. But this is set before Chuck even dreamed up that whole evolution thing.
An accurate sense of history is not central to this funny, irreverent, and technically dazzling step forward from Aardman Animations, the folks who brought us Chicken Run and the Wallace & Gromit movies. When our tale begins, in 1837, an 18-year-old Queen Victoria has just ascended to the throne. The Vicky on offer here (voiced by Imelda Staunton) is no Emily Blunt; she’s a battle-axe who lives to kill pirates. Why? Mostly because of “their idiotic shouting and ridiculous hats”.
That spells trouble for the unimaginatively self-named Pirate Captain. (And who knew Hugh Grant could have this much fun without spending money?) His booty calls have been paltry for a while, so he’s in last place for the prestigious title of Pirate of the Year, up against such stalwarts as Peg Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry), Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek), and Yankee upstart Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven).
The others do admire his “luxurious beard”—just one of the beautiful elements in the detailed, computer-assisted claymation here, with Gideon Defoe adapting his own children’s book. But that minimal respect won’t feed his misfits—including the Pirate With a Scarf (Martin Freeman), the Pirate With Gout (Brendan Gleeson), and the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen)—so the Captain is easily snookered when nerdy young Darwin (David Tennant) and his trained “manpanzee” get him to bring his rare ship’s “parrot” (a dodo called Polly, of course) to London, where the gallows swing high and pirates must pass as scientists, and girl scouts, to survive. The stop-motion silliness will delight children, while the slightly lewd Carry On–style humour will amuse adults—the more evolved ones, at least.
Watch the trailer for The Pirates! Band of Misfits.