Ha- ha, me hearties.
THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (G)
Director: Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt Stars: The voices of Hugh Grant, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton, Martin Freeman, Salma Hayek
Ha ha, me hearties!
HERE comes Aardman Studios to save the school holidays on behalf of all children.
The British stop- motion animation specialists ( best known for Wallace & Gromit ) have not dabbled in their trademark mastery of hand- manipulated Plasticine since 2005.
So The Pirates! Band of Misfits ( based on Gideon Defoe’s popular Pirates! book series) is a welcome return to what Aardman does best: featurelength family entertainment that never lets anyone down.
The year is 1837 and the competition is hotter than ever for first place in the annual Pirate of the Year Awards.
For some reason, the not- so- dreaded Pirate Captain ( Hugh Grant) thinks he’s in with a chance. However, on past form, he would have to be a rank outsider. After all, this is the guy who tried to rob a ghost ship of its non- existent booty.
Nevertheless, Pirate Captain’s loyal crewmen haven’t the collective heart to tell their beloved boss he shouldn’t bother.
So soon enough, such generically-named support staff as Pirate with a Scarf ( Martin Freeman), Albino Pirate ( Russell Tovey), Pirate with Goat ( Brendan Gleeson) and Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate ( Ashley Jensen) are urging Pirate Captain to set sail for Blood Island.
Don’t worry. The location is not nearly as ominous as it sounds. This is where all entries for the awards are submitted.
The journey ahead is a reckless and roundabout one, taking in many bungled raids on the high seas, a chance encounter with a curious nature geek named Charles Darwin ( David Tennant), and an even chancier interaction with the pirate- hating Queen Victoria ( Imelda Staunton).
Meanwhile, the blundering Pirate Captain must prove he is a match for such internationally renowned plunderers as Black Bellamy ( Jeremy Piven), Cutlass Liz ( Salma Hayek) and Peg- Leg Hastings ( Lenny Henry).
Surprisingly, for all the sterling work of the excellent voice cast, it is one minor character that does not speak comprehensively at all that steals the show.
So do keep an eye on the droll antics of Mr Bobo, a chimp owned by Darwin that can communicate with humans through the use of flash cards. This monkey is all funny business.
And while The Pirates! Band of Misfits does not quite rise to the lofty heights Aardman has scaled in the past, it is still a lively, enjoyable and very clever effort.
As always, Aardman’s inventive visual design work uses claymation skills of the highest class. In even the most basic scenes, there is just as much comic business happening in the background as there is in the foreground.