When has Aardman Animation, the creators of the popular ‘Wallace and Gromit’ shorts turned successful movie, ever made a bad film? Sure ‘Arthur Christmas‘ was subpar, but it wasn’t a terrible film by any means. Even though that is so, I was still a little worried about their latest flick, ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits.’ The film is based on a series of popular novels by Gideon Defoe, in which the wacky Pirate Captain and his fine crew of pirates get themselves into some crazy adventures. Because this was an Aardman movie, I was instantly hooked because these guys are a part of my childhood just as much as Disney and DreamWorks were. I was also intrigued by the strong voice cast behind this film, including Hugh Grant in his first animated role ever. So when the opportunity came for me to see the movie and meet the director of the film, Peter Lord, at the screening, I knew I had to go. Luckily as it turned out, ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ was hilarious and witty and all around great entertainment. If you want a fun time at the movies before ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’ comes out, then take your 9 and older kid(s) to see this wonderful movie.
The main thing that they got right (other than the animation of the film) was the voice casting of Hugh Grant. Frankly I’ve never seen a Hugh Grant film in my life (except for snippets of ‘Did You Hear About the Morgans?’) but his portrayal of The Pirate Captain was absolutely magnificent. All of the jokes hit home runs do to Grant saying some of the funniest lines you’ll hear in an animated film this year. This character is very dim witted, but that only adds to the comedy of the film. The rest of the cast, which includes famed British stars Martin Freeman and David Tennant were also great in this movie. Sure the voices could have been voiced by anyone, but all it takes is for one actor to own their role with justice, and my gosh does each cast member do that. Imelda Staunton, also known as Professor Dolores Umbridge in the ‘Harry Potter‘ movies plays Queen Victoria, also known as the head villain of this movie. (surprise, surprise) While Staunton can get annoying for me sometimes as a villain, she was perfect as one Pirate hating vicious queen. However there are two voices that could have been voiced by anyone because they are small characters in the film, and they are played by Jeremy Piven and Salma Hayek. In the trailers it seems that their roles are big, but they really aren’t. Other than them, the cast is fantastic and irreplaceable.
Stop motion is a spectacular form of animation. Aardman may be the top studio for this type of animation, but movies like ‘Coraline‘ and ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox‘ are also great entries into the animation clan. The animation in ‘Pirates’ looks very well done. Even though you can see similarities in these characters in other Aardman characters like ‘Wallace and Gromit,’ the characters in the film look very original and just plain funny in some situations. The whole scope of the film just looks glossy and very colorful, which is good for an animated movie. I just love the look of Aardman characters in general. There’s just something about them that makes them stand out and become pure eye candy. With all good animation comes good 3D, and that is clearly proven in this film. While it could be just as acceptable if you saw it in 2D, the 3D in ‘Pirates’ is quite good and worth anyone’s ticket price if they wanted to see it in the extra dimension or not. The characters look eye popping and the whole depth of the film makes you feel like you could jump into these wacky pirates, not even including a few parts where things pop out of the screening. Aardman is the leading studio in stop motion animation at the moment, and that is clearly proven in this movie.
‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ clearly isn’t the best Aardman movie out there, but I did enjoy it more than ‘Arthur Christmas.’ If you’re looking for some great comedy and a fantastic British cast giving off the voices of some of the wackiest characters that have graced the 3D screen in a while, then do yourself a favor and set sail with ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits.’ The voices are great, especially Hugh Grant, the story is original and not what you’re expecting, which is why I didn’t give a plot synopsis in here at all. Most of all, the animation looks stellar and the 3D, while not needed, is really good. Director Peter Lord clearly had something special up his sleeve, as this is only his second film behind ‘Chicken Run,’ so I’m glad I got to see the film and meet the man in person. This is one of those rare kids’ movies where adults and chaperones who take kids to this movie may enjoy it more than the kids. My audience consisted of about 40% kids, and they were barely laughing. However they did have a couple of questions to contribute to during the Q&A after the screening, so that proves that the kids were at least paying attention. Hell, you should just get a kid, take him or her to this movie, and just have a fun time. ‘Pirates’ is as fun as an animated movie can get. For being only 88 minutes long, this movie is definitely worth your time and money. So I would suggest you start sailing to your local theater and check this movie out. (yes I know that was a bad pirate joke)