The Pirates! Band of Misfits

The Pirates! Band of Misfits photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgWhen the Academy Award nominations were announced for Best Animated Feature of 2012, I think 4 of the 5 selections were foregone conclusions. Most predicted that Rise of the Guardians would be the 5th nominee. When that film was snubbed, I think everyone was a bit surprised that The Pirates! Band of Misfits made the cut instead. It didn’t really make much of a splash at the box office in the U.S., barely earning over $30 million. Plus Aardman Animations wasn’t the marketing behemoth that DreamWorks is. I am happy to report Pirates is indeed a very worthy nomination.

The Pirate Captain (yes that’s his name) yearns to win the Pirate of the Year competition. But he isn’t your typical pirate. He’s actually a rather affable chap and doesn’t possess the anti-social qualities of your average mercenary. He’s backed by an amateur group of clumsy pirates that are pretty unconventional too. I don’t think the word ‘swashbuckling’ is in their vocabulary. They don’t even have proper names. Pirate with a Scarf, Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens, Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate are some examples. At least they’re very supportive of their captain. They understand that whoever can plunder the most will be deemed the winner and therein lies their dream. Outside the U.S., The picture was originally titled The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! That makes sense because during his unsuccessful attempts to raid ships, the Pirate Captain meets Charles Darwin. The scientist spies his parrot “Polly” who is in reality a Dodo. The supposedly extinct bird is intriguing to Charles. This leads the gang to an escapade in the less welcoming atmosphere of London.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits! is a delight. The style is a cheerful throwback to classic stop-motion animation. Given the strong resurgence of titles like ParaNorman and Frankenweenie, audiences seem to be responding to its more organic, tangible quality. Of course the aesthetic beauty of the film would mean nothing without a good script. Indeed, Pirates is an intelligently written production. Witty jokes and funny sight gags abound for the careful viewer throughout the brisk 88 minute running time. The voice cast is wonderful but it’s telling that one of their most amusing doesn’t even speak at all. Mr. Darwin’s assistant is a highly trained chimp named Mister Bobo who communicates by holding up note cards. He’s hilarious, but the rest of the ensemble is quite good as well. Hugh Grant has the right amount of narcissism mixed with geniality as the Pirate Captain and Imelda Staunton is a hoot as the pirate hating Queen Victoria. With its hip soundtrack (The Clash, The English Beat, Jimmy Cliff, Supergrass) and occasional gags that little tykes won’t get, this is pitched more at older kids than the toddler set. Seeing as I am well over 8 year years old, that is just fine with me.

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19 Responses to “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”

  1. Thank you!
    Really makes me want to see a movie that was not on my radar.

  2. I LOVE Chicken Run, one of my fave animated features. Not all that interested in this one for some reason though.

    • YES! Chicken Run is my favorite movie from Aardman Animations. I didn’t care for Flushed Away or Arthur Christmas so perhaps that’s why I kind of avoided this too. Big mistake on my part because it is a charming return to films that make this studio great.

  3. Having not seen Rise of the Guardians I can’t really compare the merits but this was definitely more pleasant than I imagine that film being as it just looked bad from its trailer. Didn’t love this but it is better than most of the alternatives that could have been nominated in its place.

    • I saw The Lorax and that was thankfully passed over. Other possible alternatives (from the U.S.) could’ve been: Hotel Transylvania, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, and Ice Age: Continental Drift. Didn’t see those, but I’m happy with what they chose.

  4. Another unexpected surprise. Didn’t want to see it originally, but was glad I saw it now. Surprise nominee, I thought so, but now know why. It was very good. The comedy lines were clever and the characters were fun. 3 1/2 stars

  5. This looks like a lot of fun.

  6. I think it’s interesting how many people completely missed this movie. I remember it being everywhere before it was released and then nothing after the first week. It confused me because it was so wonderfully done that I ran out and bought the book it was based on for comparison.
    Wonderful summary, nice review.

    • I’m so glad you brought that up. The film is adapted from The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists, a comedy book by British author Gideon Defoe. It’s the first in a series of five.

      According to Wikipedia: The book is not aimed at children, and much of the humor relies on an adult appreciation of cliché and irony, though children may well enjoy it.

  7. This sounds like a good time. And, after all, isn’t that the true intent of (most) movies in the first place? This is a great review of a movie I’ve never heard of. I’d like to check it out now. Thanks Mark!

  8. Great review. Really want to see this one since they gave us a sneak peek at Comic Con.

  9. I Slightly love this movie, not thorougly impressed with the animation,but still great animated film.

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