Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt.
2012. Rated PG, 88 minutes.
Hugh Grant
Martin Freeman
Jeremy Piven
Lenny Henry
Brian Blessed

The Pirate Captain (Grant) is feeling down in the dumps. All he wants is to be Pirate of the Year. Unfortunately, reality smacks him and he comes to grips with the fact that he’s not been very successful at his chosen vocation. He tightens up his crew a bit and doubles down on his effort, but even that doesn't go very well. However, he finds out that he may have had a treasure hidden right in his beard the whole time. He takes over a boat manned by the one and only Charles Darwin (Tennant), who has nothing of value. Still, Darwin realizes that the Pirate Captain’s parrot is actually not a parrot, but the only living dodo bird and informs him it is worth untold riches. The problem is to reap this benefit, the Pirate Captain and crew have to go to London which is ruled by the sworn enemy of pirates everywhere, Queen Victoria (Staunton).

Overall, this is a fun adventure filled with clever little jokes. The voice work by Hugh Grant is excellent and the story moves nicely along. Grant’s Captain is funny in a self-deprecating way, complemented well by both his dim-witted crew and the occasional appearance of other, more boisterous pirates. These include a really fun turn by Salma Hayek’s Cutlass Liz, the only woman up for Pirate of the Year. Imelda Staunton’s Queen Victoria is not to be outdone, either. Sight gags are also mixed in to great effect, especially the sudden costumes our heroes turn up in. Verbally, Pirates prefers subtly inserted punchlines to the obvious or crass. All of this comes together in a solid package.

Unfortunately, Pirates may be a victim of its own style. While there are plenty of action scenes, the whole thing comes off as a bit understated in comparison to most other kiddie flicks. The loud-mouthed sidekick is missing, as are the fart jokes and the prerequisite love story. Though not entirely original, it’s different enough to knock it down a notch in the eyes of its target audience, even as that may elevate it in the eyes of the parents. It is also at a visual disadvantage. It’s use of clay-mation gives it a bit of a dated look, especially to kids weaned on Pixar movies.

The end result seems to be a family movie more suited for the grownups than the children. That’s not to say that kids can’t or won’t enjoy it. It just feels as if us older folk will get more enjoyment out of this one. Many of the things we chuckle at may fly right over their heads. Honestly, this is perfectly fine by me. I feel I’m owed one after sitting through Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, Journey 2, Yogi Bear, etc.

MY SCORE: 7.5/10

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