From the producer of Wallace and Gromit comes something a helluva lot funnier than Wallace and Gromit!
I’ve always found Wallace and Gromit amusing, but The Pirates! Band of Misfits excels in a brand of weird, random comedy that had me laughing out loud often. Not so much a pirate movie than a fictional goof about what a jerk Charles Darwin could’ve been in his younger days, it has a lot of laughs that come out of nowhere, and make no sense, and that’s something I happen to love very much when done right.
Hugh Grant most entertainingly voices the Pirate Captain, trying his best to win the coveted Pirate of the Year Award, which usually goes to Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven). Determined to score a lot of booty and increase his chances for victory in the contest, he sets out to pillage a bunch of boats and gather the gold.
Things don’t go well. He attacks a ghost ship, a plague ship and an elementary school field trip ship, none of them bringing monetary awards. With his fat parrot Polly in tow, he invades the science ship of Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who has never kissed a real girl, and happens to notice that Polly is, in fact, a Dodo.
The film then becomes about The Pirate Captain trying to get the Scientist of the Year award, which, as Darwin tells him, brings untold riches. He would then add those untold riches to his yearly loot, and finally win the coveted Pirate of the Year Award.
The film’s villain is—you guessed it—Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), who hates pirates and likes to eat rare species, much like Marlon Brando’s clientele did in The Freshman.
The Claymation technique is fun to watch in 3-D, although it isn’t absolutely necessary to pay for the glasses. A 2-D viewing would be just fine. I was especially impressed with the look of the stop-motion foamy beers (cotton, maybe?). While the film is a visual treat, its biggest asset is its nutty sense of humor.
Its best running gag is a chimpanzee, who’s the subject of a crazy Darwin experiment. He’s forced to wear a suit to prove that he will eventually start acting like a dude—more specifically, a butler. The chimp communicates with index cards that always seem to say exactly what the moment calls for.
Other strange touches include Pirate Ham Night (the Pirate Captain’s weekly gift to his loving crew), Black Bellamy’s mode of transportation (the inside of a sperm whale) and strange crewmember names, like the Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens (voiced by, of course, Al Roker).
Other characters include Anton Yelchin as the Albino Pirate, Brendan Gleeson as the Pirate with Gout, and Ashley Jensen as the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate. Those character names give away just how goofy this film really is.
Grant is almost unrecognizable in the lead role. When I see these movies, I like to avoid seeing the names of voice talent beforehand so I can guess while watching. I got about halfway into the film before I gave up and checked IMDB. (I was the only person in the theater, so I disturbed no one with my phone use.)
Which gets me to my next point. It’s sad that I could watch this at prime time on a Friday night and sit alone in the theater. Mind you, I don’t really like people sitting too close to me at movie theaters—I HATE THE SOUND OF MOUTH-OPEN CRUNCHING POPCORN!—but I would’ve liked a few more people to laugh along with.
I would also like to see the story of the Pirate Captain continue in further chapters. The movie isn’t doing all that well in the states, but it’s scoring some decent international business, so all hope is not lost.