In the earliest days of cinema, one of the first innovations in animation came from stop-motion claymation. However, in today’s age of cinema, its relevance has rapidly gone downhill, but there is one filmmaker every few years who takes the bold challenge to show that the subgenre isn’t dead.
Furthermore, what better person is there to bring it back again than the present day stop-motion master himself, Peter Lord? The latest release that he and the hugely underrated Aardman Animations Studio bring us is “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.”
The Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) is sick of being looked down upon by his fellow pirates, and even his ragtag crew has felt bad for his lack of success. The only thing that can help him gain more respect is if he wins the prestigious Pirate of the Year Award. After his entry is completed for the contest, he and his crew embark on a quest that brings along Charles Darwin (voiced by David Tennant) and goes from the streets of Victorian-era London to the shorelines of Blood Island.
Famed British actor Hugh Grant does a commendable job at voicing the Pirate Captain. The voice he lends to the eccentric character is very applicable to the pirate personality, and it enhances the comic delivery of the character, too. Standing out alongside him is David Tennant, whose deadpan voice work as Charles Darwin provides for some very entertaining scenes.
Like all previous Aardman Animation films, the stop-motion animation is extremely crisp and visually dazzling. All of the character figures have physical features that are greatly designed, and there is phenomenal attention to detail in the design of all of the film’s settings. Additionally, this form of animation allows for numerous innovative perks in the visual gags department because there really aren’t any more forms of animation that would allow you to pull them off like this one today.
The script’s many moments of humor come mostly from British wit and pirate parodies, and they are all fast-paced with their delivery. On the other hand though, this type of humor is still not for everyone, and that was clearly evident when this critic was one of the few people laughing at the majority of the jokes placed throughout the film.
Despite the fun adventure that this film is, the meandering second act of the script is what makes this rank below Aardman classics such as “Wallace & Gromit” and “Chicken Run.” The trailers made it seem that the Pirate of the Year Award plot was going to be the main focus of the film, but it takes an abrupt shift about 20 minutes in to something that you don’t expect. While it still remains to be genuinely entertaining, it takes away from what the striving goal of the main character is supposed to be in the beginning.
Additionally, the film’s use of slapstick humor wears out its welcome, especially towards the end. There is a running joke in the climax of the film that is repeated at least five times, and it gets old quick after the second time it is used.
Despite those flaws, “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” does succeed in providing a fun time. It ranks nowhere with the classics that Aardman Animations has produced in their nearly 40 years as a studio. However, if you’re a fan of both this kind of animation and British humor, then you should definitely give this film a shot.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5