The Pirates/Band of Misfits is one of those increasingly rare films that glory in craftsmanship of the old-fashioned, frame-by-frame animation so far removed from the increasingly dominant computer animated movies pouring out of Hollywood’s every crevice.
Directed and co-produced in 3D quality by Peter Lord of UK-based Aardman Animations (Wallace and Gromit/Chicken Run), every movement, every painstakingly created set, every baked-latex puppet (about twenty-five of the main character alone) and lovingly generated background shouts quality. And with a decent story moving things along, you really can’t go wrong.
The inefficient Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) wants to win the coveted Pirate of the Year Award. His slim chances are upped when Charles Darwin, whose boat he temporarily scuppers in the search for treasure, tells the Captain that his beloved parrot is, in fact, a dodo, long believed extinct.
Risking the pirate-detesting wrath of a plump and voracious Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), the Pirate Captain and his motley crew head for London to seek fame, glory and riches at a scientist’s congress. Before nearly having him beheaded for having the temerity to show up in the capital, Victoria relents and buys the dodo for her royal zoo.
Except that she really has rather darker designs of the kind that gave the empire a bad name—before providing fodder for generations of post-colonial scribblers. Arrrrr, me hearties: shiver me timbers and blow me down. If you want a funny, well-made take on the evils of exploiting the natural world, entertainingly packaged as a spiffing romp on the high seas, grab you kids or some popcorn and toddle along.
Pirates/Band of Misfits | Directed by Peter Lord, Jeff Newit (Germany 2012) with Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven. Starts March 29