At the Movies: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Is five years really that long for an engagement? I just assumed that was standard procedure. But then, if you were marrying me you’d probably put it off for as long as possible as well.

I thought about going to see “The Raven” but early reviews convinced me I had better things to do.

Which brings us to “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” the latest feature by Aardman Animation. Aardman doesn’t have the reputation of Disney or Pixar, but the British studio has delivered several entertaining films, such as “Chicken Run, “Flushed Away” and the Wallace and Gromit feature and series of shorts. “The Pirates!” isn’t quite as good as any of those, but it’s still charming and fun.

Directed by Peter Lord of “Chicken Run” fame, “The Pirates!” is based on a series of books by Gideon Defoe. The story centers on the Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), an enthusiastic but somewhat inept terror of the high seas. His crew shares his enthusiasm and lack of talent.

The Captain is determined to win the Pirate of the Year award but he faces stiff competition from such scalawags as Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) and Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven). Among his bumbling attempts to amass booty, the Captain has a run in with Charles Darwin (David Tennant).

Darwin informs him that the ship’s beloved mascot Polly is not really a parrot — she’s a rare dodo bird. If he brings the bird to London to enter a scientific competition, Polly is sure to win first prize, a prize worth its weight in pirate gold.

As is typical of Aardman, “The Pirates!” has several clever bits that children will miss out on but adults will find amusing. There’s still plenty of crazy action and adventure for the kids but there’s also sly, smart comedy for the parents. The film thankfully isn’t polluted with fart jokes, as is usually what passes for all-ages humor these days. The breakout star is Mr. Bobo, a monkey who communicates with flash cards.

While it’s a charming tale, it doesn’t quite have the spark of earlier Aardman works or the big laughs. The film relies on the stop-motion clay animation in the style Aardman is known for. It’s available in 3D, and the 3D is decent but not essential.






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