I really like Aardman. They’ve created pretty consistently entertaining claymation movies and I’m rarely disappointed with the outcome, from Chicken Run to Wallace and Gromit. So, when I first started seeing ads for The Pirates! Band of Misfits almost a year ago I was naturally excited for another exciting entry in the roster of films by the studio that could easily be called Britain’s Pixar. The strange thing is how long it took this movie, which I assumed would be coming out in early 2012, to be released. Part of the reason is that the version I saw is not the original British version. Certain “naughty” jokes have been removed and a few of the characters have been re-dubbed by American actors. The title was also changed from The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists to The Pirates! Band of Misfits. This is likely why the film took so long to get released compared to Britain where it came out over a month ago. It’s unfortunate to know that the version I saw was tampered with by Sony and I can only hope that the blu-ray comes with the option to watch the original version.
I guess I wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t care, but I really liked The Pirates. Aardman’s signature brand of humour is all over this film, even if altered slightly for more conservative North American audiences. It was still a genuinely funny and entertaining adventure. If I had kids (I probably never will by the way) I’d take them to see this movie, because it would make me a more awesome father. Not only are the jokes fresh and fun, but the animation is smooth and the 3D looks pretty nice. You’re welcome, future children.
The Pirates is actually based on a book series by Gideon Defoe who also wrote the script for the film. It follows the exploits of The Pirate Captain, a vain, bumbling fool who seems to lose out at every turn. His hapless crew, consisting of characters like The Albino Pirate, The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate, and The Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens, follow his every whim. This year is their chance to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award and The Pirate Captain sees a chance at glory when they attack the Beagle, which, for the historically challenged like me, was Charles Darwin’s ship during his biological expeditions. In the film, Darwin is a virginistic opportunist. He’s taken aboard their ship and informs the Captain that his “big-boned” parrot, Polly, isn’t a parrot at all but the last remaining dodo bird. The Pirate Captain decides to go to London to claim the prize for his scientific discovery. What he fails to realize is that London is home to Queen Victoria, a strong, portly woman who has made her hatred of pirates abundantly clear.
Despite being unabashedly fun throughout, The Pirates does suffer from under-developed characters and some of the sub-plots feel like they really don’t go anywhere. It feels more like the first part in an eventual series than a really strong stand-alone film, which is OK, except that you can’t just expect a series of films to ensue if the first one doesn’t stand strong enough on its own. Still, this film is entertaining enough on its own merits that maybe a series of pirate adventures isn’t such a bad idea. I enjoyed The Pirates! Band of Misfits enough to go see another one for sure. Goodness knows we need it more than we need a whole series of Wrath of the Titans movies.