Friday, April 27, 2012

Review of THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS


- Rated PG for mild action, rude humor and some language.
- Featuring the voices of Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Selma Hayek,  Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Piven, Anton Yelchin
- Written by Gideon Defoe
- Directed by Peter Lord
- Running time: 1hr 27min

This stop-motion family flick is from the makers of WALLACE & GROMIT and CHICKEN RUN.  I found both to be mildly amusing.  The problem with those movies are that the cheeky and witty humor start to get irritating after awhile.  While I love the look to both, they're a little too low-key for my taste, and I think were in need of a burst of energy.

The story is about Pirate Captain (yup, that's his name) who is a free-spirited, light-hearted pirate, who longs to be Pirate of the year.  He also has an eccentric and wacky crew, of course: Besides his number two (in command), there is an albino, a peg leg, and a bearded "guy" who is remarkably feminine.  Since the Captain is pretty much the laughing stock of a pirate, he intends to prove himself to all the other pirates by acquiring enormous amounts of "booty" (the money kind).  The crew meets Charles Darwin (who has a pet monkey who only talks with note cards), who informs the Pirate Captain that his fat pigeon isn't a pigeon at all, but a Do-Do, which is extremely rare.  The plan is to sell the Do-Do to Queen Victoria who wants the bird badly, but nothing goes according to plan as the evil queen has an ulterior motive.

Finally, the creators of WALLACE & GROMIT have made a briskly paced film.  It's just nuts!  The jokes come fast and furious.  So many sight gags come and go in a blink of an eye that I'm sure I didn't catch everything.  Make sure you pay close attention to the background (loved the Pirate Captain wanted poster: "and a free pen"... you'll just have to see it).  The fun, infectious tone is set early on and never peters out.  The humor is kind of like a Monty Python for kids.  The characters are delightful, instead of irritating like in many kids' films.

I didn't even recognize Hugh Grant as the Pirate Captain.  He uses a different voice and is very convincing.  He's a know-it-all, but has a big heart.  He just wants to be respected.  I found it to be very clever for the filmmakers to use Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria as villains in the piece.  My favorite character was probably Darwin's monkey, who very much reminded me of a classic silent comedian.  A great example of some of the sight gags is when the monkey is telling Darwin something crucial by holding up cards, Darwin says. "Quiet!", then the monkey raises a card of the same word, but smaller.  Pretty brilliant.  The movie is loaded with great little moments like this.

The look of the movie is outstanding.  What impresses me about stop-motion is that every little set and prop had to be built.  The attention to detail is perfect.  My only complaint would be the 3D.  The movie has several scenes during nighttime and in the shadows, it was a little difficult for me to see some things.  But that's not the picture's fault, but the studio for making the conversion to 3D.

Kids should like the movie enough, but I imagine the parents will enjoy this even more than their kids.  After it was done, my daughter said she liked it, but not as much as me.  And I asked her why she said that, and she replied by saying "You were laughing A LOT, Dad!".   Even if you don't have kids, this is very much an animated film for everyone.  Arguably more for adults than kids, as there are some clever inclusions of grown-up jokes (but not as gratuitous as SHREK) thrown in to the mix.

This is easily one of the funniest films of the year thus far.  It's smart, witty, hilarious and even a little ridiculous.  I highly recommend checking this out, with or without kids. 

***1/2 (out of ****)

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