|Yup...they're pirates alright!|
The film follows a pirate captain cleverly named....er....The Pirate Captain (played by Hugh Grant) and his titular band of misfit pirates. The Pirate Captain, who's much too cheery to be a cut-through on the high seas, attempts to win the coveted pirate of the year competition after years and years of sucking at being a pirate. The twist here (and it really is a huge plot point that wasn't even hinted at in the trailers, so turn away now if'n ye care not for spoilers) is that they meet up with a young, lovesick Charles Darwin (surprisingly played by David Tennant, who I think should do more voice work in the future.) Darwin wants to use The Pirate Captain's pet dodo bird to win a fancy science competition and woo the pirate hating Queen Victoria (Imedla Staunton.) The plot sounds a little convoluted because...well...it is. But we'll get back to that in a bit.
Right now let's start with the good: this film looks awesome. It's classic Aardman character design, with their classic insane amount of detail in each scene. The animation is charming and impressive, especially in a chase scene (something Aardman studios seem to excel at from past features) midway in the film that starts at the top of a mansion and ends up on the city streets and mostly takes place in a bathtub. That sequence alone is worth the price of admission if you ask me. It's not only very creative, but masterfully animated.
However, noticeable modern shortcuts do rear their heads, both in animation and in music. There's a notable amount of added CG elements, mostly with water and other special effects which, as a stop motion purist, I cry foul. But what can you do? Aardman has successfully dipped their toe in the CG waters with fully CG flicks like Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas, so it's not like their CG division is going anywhere. And yes, animating this much spot-motion water would be really, really really, really hard/impossible. But you can't deny that even though it takes an insane amount of work compared to the compter generated route, practical effect will always be more interesting to watch and have more character then digitally added ones. Especially on a stop-motion feature like this where the GC doesn't quite match the clay art-style. But maybe I'm just being a little bit too curmudgeonly old fashioned, so I'll just move along from this issue.
|Yes, water's pretty impossible to animate in stop-motion. You win this round movie.|
|It's Victoria Day Weekend here in Canada! Celebrate by killing a pirate!|
Speaking of not interesting, let's talk about their pet dodo bird. Sweet Jimmy Crickets, this bird was dull, and that's kind of a big problem. Actually, this unlikely character is the perfect example of this movie's shortcomings. Let's for a moment compare the bird from Pirates! Band of Misfits (named Polly, by the way) to Kevin, the bird from Pixar's Up.
|The fight of the feathered MacGuffins!!|
|A band of misfits they are! But don't get attached, the movie's not about them.|
Truth be told, I hate to harp on this movie. And despite my ramblings, it may surprise you that I did enjoy this film quite a bit. There were so many good jokes (and good clean jokes at that, which is so much harder to write,) the visual humour was spot on, and the gags all hit their targets. I just feel with a little more heart and soul between the characters (especially from the captain's crew, and not just his bland second in command) this movie could have been up there with Wallace & Gromit levels of awesomeness.
|Hugh Grant as The Pirate Captain: hopefully we'll see him again.|