Pirates have obviously hired the most savvy publicists ever--because between Keith Richards, eerie compasses, and now this movie, any damage done to their rep by the nasty real-life Somali pirates has been completely erased. The Pirates! Band of Misfits is so darn funny throughout, it had me wondering if I had taken too many swigs of rum somewhere along the line. But nope--dry as a landlubber, just delighted throughout.
I love Aardman's claymation animation because it feels like I can reach out and touch it, which only gets more intense in 3D (the individual bubbles of foam in the beer mugs are lip-smacking). At a very base level, along with the touchability, all the pleasingly round edges, luxurious beards, and big eyes are just plain cute. So we're on a pirate ship, but a cute one. It's an immediate joy-inducer.
So aboard this cute ship is The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant, in his finest role since Love Actually), who isn't great at getting gold or buckling his swash--but his crew loves him anyway because he understands that the best part of being a pirate is Ham Night. They are a band of misfits, named in typical tongue-in-cheek Aardman style, including The Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman), The Albino Pirate (Anton Yelchin), The Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson), The Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens (Al Roker), and The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen). Oh, and Polly too. Pirate Captain never goes anywhere without his beloved "big boned" parrot.
Pirate Captain is determined to win this years' Pirate of the Year Contest. This means that his mild-mannered, screw-up self has to compete with the rough and tough sexiness of Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Selma Hayek), and there's no way he's going to win. Not unless…he meets Charles Darwin (David Tennant), makes scientific history, and later throws Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) down a garbage chute. Yes, I'm quite aware that last sentence makes no sense. Their parody of pirate stories, world history, and plain slapstick makes every second of this movie wildly fun.
I think that this movie works similarly to Looney Tunes. Kids will enjoy it because it's visually rich and lots of people fall down. Their parents are going to like it for those reasons, but understand that it's funny to say Charles Darwin is too nerdy to have a girlfriend--everyone knows he was like the original Hugh Hefner, right? And adults will probably recognize The Flight of the Conchords song too, that is one of the few times I ever remember a soundtrack song making an otherwise cliche scene gut-bustingly funny. Way to go Britain. Sorry about all that revolution stuff.