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The Pirates! Band of Misfits


Aardman studios made a name for itself with the wonderful “Wallace and Grommit” shorts, which led to a decent feature film, then “Chicken Run,” which wasn’t half bad, before they ventured into CGI for “Flushed Away” and “Arthur Christmas.”  Fans of the old stuff, myself included, are happy to see them put away the computers and get back to hand animation — there’s something distinct and charming in the way the characters look that was lost when computers were doing all the grunt work.   That being said, “Pirates!  Band of Misfits” is still a bit of a disappointment.  While it still bears the studio’s trademark British wit, the script doesn’t feel as carefully crafted as Aardman’s best.

The pirates don’t have names, just descriptions – as in, the Girl Pirate, the Pirate Who Liks Sunsets and Kitens, and of course, our hero, The Pirate Captain.  He really wants to win Pirate of the Year, but the competitions pretty stiff, and he can’t manage to attack anything but ghost ships and floating leper colonies.  Compared to those two, Charles Darwins’ floating zoo seems like a treasure trove, with all of its stuffed animals, skeletons, and fancy lab instruments.  When Darwins points out that Captain’s odd-looking parrot (“she’s just big-boned”) is actually a dod0, thought to be extinct, Captain changes plans, hoping to win fame and glory at a big science convention thanks to  his prized bird.

Somehow, though, it lacks the charm and likability of Wallace and Grommit, though it’s clearly operating from the same sort of one-thing-just-leads-to-another plotting.  It feels like Aardman on an off day – the jokes are there, and they’re funny, just not as funny as they usually are.  Fans of Wallace and Grommit are likely to enjoy “Pirates!” but I doubt it will ever be anyone’s favorite Aardman production.  Folks who watch W & G and wonder what all the fuss is about are better off just steering clear.


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