Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)
Hugh Grant, starring in his first animated role, is the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain – a boundlessly enthusiastic, if somewhat less-than-successful, terror of the High Seas. With a rag-tag crew at his side (Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey, and Ashley Jensen), and seemingly blind to the impossible odds stacked against him, the Captain has one dream: to beat his bitter rivals Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) to the much coveted Pirate Of The Year Award. It's a quest that takes our heroes from the shores of exotic Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London. Along the way they battle a diabolical queen (Imelda Staunton) and team up with a haplessly smitten young scientist (David Tennant), but never lose sight of what a pirate loves best: adventure!
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Pirates! Band of Misfits Theatrical Review
The Pirates! Band of Misfits comes to us from "across the pond" as they say and is based on a kids book by Gideon DeFoe. The film features some interesting voice, specifically that of Hugh Grant as our nefarious leader.
The Captain proudly sports an impressive beard, even if his modest haul of "booty" is less impressive. While he may not be the most imposing figure as an extorter of wealth on the high seas, his crew remains fiercely loyal to him. Plus, they don't mind being known only by descriptive monikers, such as the Pirate With a Scarf (Martin Freeman), the Pirate With Gout (Brendan Gleeson) or the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen), a femme with an obviously fake beard whom no one seems to have pegged as a girl.
The Captain sets his sights on winning the coveted Pirate of the Year award, even though his rivals -- Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), Peg Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry), and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) -- have considerably more treasure.
After several ill-fated attempts to build up his treasure chest, the Captain and crew happen upon young naturalist Charles Darwin (former "Doctor Who" David Tennant), who notices that their ship's "big-boned" bird-in-residence, Polly, is not actually a parrot but rather the last dodo on Earth. Darwin persuades them to bring Polly to the Royal Academy to receive a "priceless" award. However, when anti-pirate Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) sees Polly, she insists she simply must have her for the Royal Zoo and offers the Captain an immense fortune, prompting a crisis of conscience. It turns out that the monarch, who's more than just a pretty national figurehead, has a much more nefarious plan in mind.
Head-honcho Peter Lord has taken producing credits on most of the company's recent output. Based on the evidence here, Lord has a steely grip on what gives the company its value: an exhaustive attention to detail that crams the intricate sets with peripheral-vision jokes; a very droll, clearly English sense of humor (Blood Island is so named because it's "the exact shape of some blood"); and supreme comic timing.
The humor mostly veers toward an older age demographic, but younger tikes will get a visual rush from the hilarious set pieces. A chase down a staircase in a bathtub and the climatic battle between the Captain and a swashbuckling Victoria aboard her obviously Steampunk-style displays truly awesome technique, coordinating several figures at once, all moving through space.
Although most audiences won't notice, animation geeks will swoon over what Lord and Co. have accomplished technically. Though the clay figures still have a pleasingly tactile, smushy quality, they're modeled with great subtlety; new methods of rendering mouth movements have made for a seemingly accurate verbal touch, while CG is used deftly to conquer always tricky materials like water and smoke.
So for a kids flick that clearly has more to offer than most American based films, The Pirates! Band of Misfits should be your choice for the family outing this weekend.
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