Cert: U Runtime: 88 mins Director: Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt Starring: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Salma Hayek, David Tennant and Brian Blessed
Fire all things that go bang!
Anything with the branding of Aardman Studios I will watch it, I love stop motion pictures Wallace & Gromit being one. The Pirates has been on my radar for a few months, but I had no clue what it was from? It is based on a series of books written by Gideon Defoe about the different of the Pirate Captain and his crew.The story is simple after years of humiliation and failed attempts to win the coveted Pirate of the Year Award, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his oddball crew take on the cream of the pirating crop – Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), Peg Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) – in a race to pillage the most booty. They soon cross paths with lovelorn scientist Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who persuades the Captain that the crew’s prized ‘parrot’, Polly, could be the answer to the ‘untold riches’ they are searching for. Their adventure takes them to Victorian London where they meet Darwin’s sidekick ‘man-panzee’ Mister Bobo, and the notorious pirate-hating Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) herself. It soon unfolds that Darwin’s motives for helping the crew are not what they seem, and the Queen has an evil hidden agenda of her own. The Pirate Captain must choose between basking in the glory of being crowned Pirate of the Year, or staying faithful to his trusted crew.
As you’d expect from an Aardman production, the film is full of both subtle and not so subtle humour. One of the first things that made me laugh was the names of Pirate Captain’s crew. There is The Pirate with a Scarf (Marin Freeman), so named because he wears a scarf, The Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson) who is fat, the Albino Pirate (Russell Tovey) and the best of them all, the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen) who is a woman in a fake beard. They are great names which bought a smile to my face each time they were used. Every shop sign or wanted poster features a pun and there are nods to the likes of Blackadder. It’s the sort of film that will take several viewings in order to see all of the jokes.The animation is top notch, as it should be. Aardman are the masters of their art and having dabbled in stop-motion animation myself, I understand the time and effort that must go into making a stop-motion feature. Aardman has come a long way from the rough and ready clay models of The Wrong Trousers but the models still maintain their distinctive style and it is obvious that care has been taken during each of the millions of frames.
The voice cast is excellent. Most of the actors are instantly recognisable but David Tennant puts on a convincing accent for his interpretation of Charles Darwin. The actors help to make the script very funny and I’m pleased to see that the filmmakers have stuck with a mostly British cast and stayed away from an A-List star.The soundtrack is enjoyable and uses songs which are not only great but fit the story perfectly. You can expect to hear the likes of The Clash, Flight of the Concords and Blur.While my girlfriend, most of the adult audience and myself enjoyed the film, the young children in the audience seemed a little bored by it. I don’t think there was enough in the film to keep the young children entertained and a lot of the humour was going over their head. It is almost like the film has been pitched at an adult audience, which is fine and worked, but with a U rating and an Easter release, lots of children will go and may be disappointed.This is not Aardman’s best work but it was an enjoyable 88 minutes that featured plenty of laughs and a fairly interesting but in the end throw away plot.