Big Screen Ballyhoo – “The Pirates! Band Of Misfits”

As I continue to watch movies in my efforts to see at least 50 percent of the Oscars list, I suppose I was bound to eventually find a movie that was only just okay. Not bad, sorta fun, but nothing special.

This time, that movie is “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.” Nominated for Best Animated Film, this is one of the two films, along with “ParaNorman,” nominated for the Oscar that wasn’t also nominated for the equivalent Golden Globe. Take that as you will. The movie was directed by Peter Lord, which makes sense since he’s the co-founder of the production company, Aardman Animations, the company that brought you “Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” “Chicken Run” and “Flushed Away.”

The movie focuses on a ragtag group of misfit pirates lead by The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant). While they’re not really particularly good at pirating, the crew absolutely adores their captain. After being embarrassed by other more monetarily successful pirates when attempting to enter the Pirate of the Year competition, The Pirate Captain and his crew go on a frenzy of unfortunately unsuccessful attempt to raid ships for their gold. Just when he was about to lose hope, he raids the ship of none other than Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Darwin, rightly recognizing The Pirate Captain’s “parrot” Polly as a once extinct dodo bird, attempts to convince The Pirate Captain to let him present it at the Scientist of the Year award. The Pirate Captain, intent on doing it himself and using the rewards he believes a victory would bring him to win the Pirate of the Year award.

This brings The Pirate Captain and his crew sailing into Victorian London, something that is immensely risky for the pirates as Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) has a nearly irrational vicious hatred for pirates. The crew goes anyway, staying at Darwin’s place. Darwin continues attempting to steal Polly with his trained chimp Mr. Bobo, but finds himself unable to do so, and only The Pirate Captain’s second in command Number Two (Martin Freeman) seems to notice what Darwin was up to.

As you should probably be able to guess, there are hijinks and laughs and people being gotten the better of. It’s not really anything new or exciting for a film, animated or otherwise. The story is pretty standard, though some of the jokes included are humorous the first go ’round, such as The Pirate Captain’s thought that the monsters drawn on maps actually exist in those spots.

The animation is just like the animation this studio has always done, a bit of choppy claymation that’s not bad, but nothing to really write home about either. I still think “The Nightmare Before Christmas” had some of the best claymation I’ve ever seen in film. The movie does star several well known voices other than the ones I’ve already mentioned, including Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Brian Blessed, Al Roker and Anton Yelchin. It does have some good scenery and some well-done animation in the gags, but the story is kind of weak and predictable. Still, it’s great as a family or kids movie. You could definitely do a lot worse.

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