The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Rated PG for mild action, rude humor and some language
Length: 88 minutes
Released: April 27, 2012 Nationwide
Cast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Piven, Brian Blessed
Director: Peter Lord
Producer: Peter Lord, David Sproxton, Julie Lockhart
Writer: Gideon Defoe
Genre: Animation, Action/Adventure, Family
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Pity the poor Pirate Captain.
True, he sports a luxuriant beard, has a steadfast crew that looks forward to “Ham Nite” on their ship, and a feathered friend named Polly. But when it comes to rewards for his capture, he barely registers.
A “Wanted” poster promises 12 doubloons and a free pen, a pittance compared with the payoffs for fellow contenders for the Pirate of the Year award. The Pirate Captain (voice of Hugh Grant) has entered the contest for the past 20 years and come up empty every time.
But the captain’s luck might change -- for better and worse -- in “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” from the inventive people at Aardman Animations studio. Director Peter Lord charts the film’s course using Gideon Defoe’s “The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists: A Novel.”
It’s the most fun a landlubber can have without Johnny Depp, and more family-friendly thanks to its PG rating. However, for the very young, expect a few whispered questions in the theater or later Internet searches of such notables as Queen Victoria or Charles Darwin.
But no background is necessary to delight in this comic adventure that opens in 1837 as Queen Victoria (voice of Imelda Staunton) glories in her kingdom’s far-flung reach and broadcasts her feelings about buccaneers on her royal crest: “I hate Pirates.”
Such a meeting might seem unlikely until the vainglorious captain captures a ship with scientist Charles Darwin (David Tennant), a nebbishy fellow with a crush on the queen. He’s about to meet a watery grave when he recognizes Polly as not a parrot but a dodo, thought to be extinct.
The scientist promises untold riches if he and the captain could present the flightless bird to a scientific convention. And they’re off to the races with close encounters with the royals, a man-panzee named Mr. Bobo, a chemical combination you might use at home and hijinks on the high seas.
It’s all grand fun thanks to delightful details: A treasure room with more than 400,000 gold coins; the pirate ship with its 44,569 parts; 220,000 props, including bottles, lamps and glasses made by a specialist glass blower for the film; and 1,364 puppet mouths for the captain alone.
Key voice talent also includes: Martin Freeman as the Pirate With a Scarf; Jeremy Piven as Black Bellamy; Salma Hayek as Cutlass Liz; Anton Yelchin as the Albino Pirate; Ashley Jensen as the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate; and Al Roker as the Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens.
Although bloody brilliant at times, “The Pirates” purposely is historically inaccurate with cameos by famous people who had yet to be born or died 20 years earlier. But the insertion of those characters seems designed to amuse the alert adults while their children thrill to a bubble-filled bathtub that turns into a makeshift roller coaster.
Then again, it’s an animated movie, not a documentary. The ship sails to Great Britain to The Clash’s “London Calling,” Grant sounds more engaged than in recent rom-coms, and there’s a monkey who just might be the smartest bloke in the room.