They’ll tickle yer tim­bers

This vastly en­ter­tain­ing Aard­man com­edy will en­cour­age a big smile from even the un­jol­liest Roger, writes Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

AVAST! MAKE smartly for the picture house.

It’s 1837 when the Pi­rate Cap­tain (Hugh Grant) and his mostly slow-wit­ted crew sink Charles Dar­win’s ves­sel the Bea­gle. The Pi­rate Cap­tain was hop­ing for gold. He was hop­ing to win Pi­rate of the Year from swarthy ri­vals Black Bel­lamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cut­lass Liz (Salma Hayek).

But the cap­tured sci­en­tist may have an al­ter­na­tive plan. Can the pi­rates re­ally trust land­lub­bers like Dar­win (David Ten­nant) and his mon­key but­ler, Mr Bobo? Why do they keep eye­ing Polly, the ship’s par­rot (who is ac­tu­ally a dodo)? And will the crew evade the das­tardly, pi­rate-hat­ing Queen Vic­to­ria (Imelda Staunton)?

The world would surely be an in­fin­itely bet­ter place if, like this cum­ber­somely ti­tled movie, all films were to fea­ture mon­key but­lers. A suited and slicked simian who com­bines the eye-rolling tal­ents of Wal­lace’s Gromit and a seem­ingly end­less se­ries of amus­ing writ­ten ex­cla­ma­tions and wit­ti­cisms, cinema’s new­est mon­key but­ler is in­stantly one of Aard­man Stu­dios’ most ap­peal­ing cre­ations.

The Pi­rates, too, are de­cent com­pany. Re­mem­ber when ev­ery­body found Hugh Grant charm­ing? His Pi­rate Cap­tain, a de­cent-minded, ham-lov­ing, oc­ca­sion­ally stam­mer­ing ad­ven­turer, re­calls the cud­dlier, ear­lier Hugh Grant of Four Wed­dings and a Fu­neral and Sense and Sen­si­bil­ity. In the same spirit, the crew seem to dis­til ev­ery­thing we love about Bren­dan Glee­son, Martin Free­man and Brian Blessed into a se­ries of “ar­rrs” and shiv­er­ing tim­bers.

All-ages jokes ar­rive sharp as a scab­bard and at ram­ming speed, though the screen­play, adapted by Gideon Defoe from his own comic novel, can’t quite match Curse of the Were-rab­bit for in­ven­tion. Yet the lov­ing, thumb-printed clay­ma­tion and an an­ar­chic spirit mark this out as top-flight Aard­man, over and above the com­par­a­tive dis­ap­point­ments of Chicken Run and Flushed Away.

Still, it’s hard not to puz­zle over the movie’s bizarre and in­ap­pro­pri­ate depic­tion of Charles Dar­win as a lech­er­ous in­com­pe­tent. It’s of­fen­sive, but much worse: it’s just not as funny as ev­ery­thing else. The mon­key but­ler, on the other hand . . .

The Pi­rate Cap­tain and some of his scurvy crew. That’s the Mon­key But­ler on the right

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