Parents usually dread “family movies,” and not without reason. “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is one they don’t have to. “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” looks like a kids’ movie, but it’s too funny to leave it just to them. It’s entirely likely that adults will actually find this movie funnier than the target audience, who should nonetheless enjoy the inspired lunacy.
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is a stop motion animation/CGI hybrid from “Wallace and Gromit” creators Aardman Animations. The result is visually stylish and eye-filling movie that helps justify the price tag of taking a family out to the movies.
Hugh Grant provides the voice performance as the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain – a boundlessly enthusiastic, if generally unsuccessful, terror of the High Seas. He dreams of beating out his rivals Black Bellamy (voice performance by Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (voice performance by Salma Hayek) for the Pirate of the Year Award. Not surprisingly, the amount of loot one has plundered has a lot to do with that.
The Pirate Captain sets out on a quest to bring in lots of loot, and we quickly find why this crew hasn’t done better in the pirating profession — they have no talent for spotting ships with any treasure on board. They do, eventually, raid a vessel on a scientific mission, whose passenger Charles Darwin (voice performance by David Tennant) quickly realizes that the Pirate Captain’s prize parrot Polly is in fact a Dodo, long-believed extinct.
Darwin wants two things in life: prestige in the scientific community and a girlfriend, not necessarily in that order. He talks the Pirate Captain into bringing Polly to London for a science convention, where Polly should guarantee the top prize to whoever presents her. There, the Pirate Captain has to balance his own yearnings for loot and the Pirate of the Year prize against loyalty to his ragtag crew.
The extremely witty script, by Gideon Defoe, is based on two of Defoe’s “The Pirates!” series. It would be absolutely unfair to spoil the jokes. Suffice it to say that the dialogue is funny and the situations milk anachronistic humor for everything it’s worth. And no, the kids won’t get all of it.
No one has better comic timing than Hugh Grant, and no one does absurdist English comedy better. But the voice cast includes a lot of big names, including Brian Blessed as the Pirate King, Ashley Jensen as the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate, Brendan Gleeson as the Pirate with Gout and Al Roker as the Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens. The character names alone give you a pretty good idea of the movie’s style of humor. Imelda Staunton, who traumatized millions of children as Prof. Umbrage in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix provides the voice performance for Queen Victoria, presented here as an absolute psychopath.
The music score includes The Clash’s“London Calling,” Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want” and “I’m Not Crying” by Flight of the Conchords. The credits, which you should stay for, assure us no Dodo’s were harmed during the production.
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is now playing at theatres across the Capital District, including The Bow Tie Cinemas Movieland in Schenectady, the Rotterdam Square Cinema, the Regal Cinemas Clifton Park Stadium 10 & RPX, the Regal Cinemas Crossgates Stadium 18 & IMAX, the Regal Cinemas Colonie Center Stadium 13, the Regal Cinemas Latham Circle Mall 10 and the Malta Drive-In Theatre on Route 9 in Malta.