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Movie Review: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

April 27, 2012

The Pirates! Band of Misfits – A Sony Pictures’ Release

Release Date: April 27th, 2012

Rated PG for some scary scenes and cartoon action

Running time: 88 minutes

Peter Lord (dir.)

Jeff Newitt (dir.)

Gideon Defoe (screenplay)

Theodore Shapiro (music)

Hugh Grant as The Pirate Captain (voice)

Martin Freeman as The Pirate with a Scarf (voice)

Imelda Staunton as Queen Victoria (voice)

David Tennant as Charles Darwin (voice)

Jeremy Piven as Black Bellamy (voice)

Salma Hayek as Cutlass Liz (voice)

Lenny Henry as Peg Leg Hastings (voice)

Anton Yelchin as The Albino Pirate (voice)

Brendan Gleeson as The Pirate with Gout (voice)

Ashley Jensen as The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (voice)

©Sony Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Pirate Captain (voice of Hugh Grant) and Polly in The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Our reviews below:


The Pirates! Band of Misfits Review By John C.

**1/2 (out of 4)

The latest claymation feature from Aardman, The Pirates! Band of Misfits boasts their trademark style of beautifully detailed animation brought to life by an excellent voice cast and quirky British humour.  I’m a big fan of their previous claymation films like the excellent Chicken Run and the great Walace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, but this time around, the overly simple story is more for kids.  This is clear from the screenplay that keeps itself broad enough as not to lose the young viewers who will inevitably be brought to the theatre.

The aptly named Pirate Captain (voice of Hugh Grant) is an innocent swashbuckler who dreams of winning the coveted Pirate of the Year award.  But his misfit crew of pirates with various quirks and ailments keep losing, and even his adorable bird Polly is a little on the heavy side.  The real adventure starts when Pirate Captain and his crew take over the ship of the daft Charles Darwin (David Tennant) and his pet “manpanzee” Mr. Bobo, sailing to London and finding themselves on the run from the scheming pirate hating Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton).

There definitely are some delights in The Pirates! Band of Misfits, including an amusing sequence at a convention for scientists and the multiple disguises that the quirky characters keep pulling off.  Hugh Grant gives it his all in the leading role, charming the audience with an almost unrecognizable vocal performance.  But I also felt my attention wandering and found it hard to get fully engaged in what was happening on screen, with certain sequences providing much more entertainment for the packed audience of young kids.  The film also feels a little long, even at the perfect length of 88 minutes.

There certainly are some clever sight gags in The Pirates! Band of Misfits and the beautifully detailed animation is predictably brilliant, but the overly simplistic story will be best enjoyed by younger audience members.  Although it will likely be kids who take away the most from the experience, hardcore fans of Aardman will still get just enough of what they are looking for in this silly high seas adventure.


The Pirates! Band of Misfits Review by Erin V.  

**1/2 (out of 4)

Based on the book by Gideon Defoe, The Pirates! is the newest stop-motion Aardman film.  The story is of a pirate captain named, well, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), who wants to enter the Pirate of the Year awards.  The trouble is, he’s never had much success at looting (a huge requirement), and has lost the last 20-odd years he’s entered.  The story takes some other turns though, as they get caught up in an adventure involving the Captain’s ‘parrot’ Polly, Charles Darwin, his chimpanzee butler (who speaks through amusing cue cards), and a pirate-hating queen.

The animation, there is no doubt, is brilliant as always, with a lot of time and care obviously put into every frame.  There is also a ton to look at with the little details included both in the fore and background.  The voice cast does a fine job as well.  But from Aardman, the creators of Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, and last year’s brilliant Arthur Christmas, I must honestly say that I hoped for more in terms of script here.  The kids (5-8 range) in the packed theatre seemed to quite like it, but while it has enough for adults not to be annoyed at having to sit through it, it doesn’t have as much for them as other films like it.  I actually was bored and found my attention wandering through this short (88 minute) movie, which rarely happens.  Granted though, after seeing the trailer, the finished film was about on the level I expected.

Simply put, I think this is one that curious adults can wait for DVD to see, but if you’ve got kids begging to see something at the theatres, this is perfect for them.  It’s short, and unlike a lot of what you see kids at, at least age-appropriate for them to watch.


The Pirates! Band of Misfits Review by Nicole

**1/2 (out of 4)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits is a fun and very silly kids adventure.  Based on Gideon Defoe’s book The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, this movie follows Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), whose greatest wish is to win the Pirate of the Year award.  However, he is always getting beaten, so he gathers his crew of “misfit” pirates on a quest to be the best plunderer.  His best friend, a bird named Polly also comes along.

But Pirate Captain always ends up on the wrong boats.  One of these boats is none other than The Beagle, the ship where Charles Darwin (David Tennant) and his pet Mr. Bobo the “manpanzee” reside.  Darwin notices that Polly is special, so he invites the pirates to a science fair.  However, this is where they run into the pirate hating Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), who has a secret reason for wanting Polly.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits is not that engaging for adults, as the storyline is very simple and underdeveloped.  However, the animation is superb.  There are so many little details that could be missed on first viewing.  The animation is what carries the film, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits is a fun diversion that grown ups will like and children will love.


The Pirates! Band of Misfits Review by Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

Argh!  Who’s Pirate of the Year?  Aardman Animation director Peter Lord is hoping younger fans and their grown ups will want to find out in The Pirates! Band of Misfits.  The animation quality in this film is up to par with the standards set in earlier Aardman features such as Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and Arthur Christmas.  The brightly coloured and delightfully quirky claymation cast and crew of The Pirates! are amusing to watch, even if the story itself is a little too silly for its own good at times.

Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) is determined that this will finally be the year he and his motley crew will win the trophy in the Pirate of the Year competition held on Bllood Island.  Competition is tough with the likes of Black Belemy (Jeremy Piven), Peg Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) all clearly being better at the pirating thing.  A chance encounter with Charles Darwin (David Tennant) and his “manpanzee” servant, the flash carding Mister Bobo, lead Pirate Captain, his pudgy parrot pal Polly and the rest of the crew to London for a science convention.  Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), who hates pirates, can make sure that he wins the coveted prize.

The glaring plot holes in the lightweight story are offset by many puns, one-liners and quirky British humour that will go right over little ones’ heads.  The younger ones won’t mind because the visuals are so slapstick and appropriately silly.  These are not scary pirates.  With a running time of only 88 minutes, these pirates stick around just long enough to keep us amused before they wear out their welcome.  The Pirates! Band of Misfits is a family friendly choice for a theatre visit, though it will play out just as well at home on disc.


The Pirates! Band of Misfits Review by Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits is the latest collaboration between Sony Animation and Aardman. Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) keeps trying to win the Pirate of the Year Award but his attempts to pillage have mainly been unsuccessful. One boat he boards belongs to Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who recognizes Captain’s bird is not a fat parrot but a dodo, sure to win an award in London for scientific achievement. Unfortunately, London is not safe for pirates, as Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) hates them. Pirate Captain takes his chances, leading to a series of silly misadventures.

Like the previous Sony/Aardman feature Arthur Christmas, The Pirates! is beautiful to watch, with clay animation typical of earlier Aardman work like Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run. As expected, the voice cast is very good, particularly Hugh Grant in a nice departure from his usual roles. There are some clever verbal and visual gags, such as a chimp butler who communicates with flash cards and advertising posters that reappear in the credits for those of us who missed them the first time around.

However, many of the sillier gags will appeal more to kids than grownups and the story doesn’t hold together well, so in fact the 88 minute length, comfortable for a young audience, seemed long for us adults. Overall, this is disappointingly not up to the usual Aardman standard.


Consensus: Although the story of The Pirates! Band of Misfits will be most engaging for younger members of the audience, the beautifully detailed animation from Aardman is excellent and there are enough clever sight gags to keep adults watching.  **1/2 (Out of 4)

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