The Pirates! Band of Misfits Review
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Perhaps best known for the lovable claymation duo Wallace and Gromit, the UK’s Aardman Animations often find themselves facing off against Pixar for the top prizes in animation, with quirky characters and striking animation that make them favorites with critics and audiences alike. Now, with their fifth full-length adventure, they take to the streets of old London for a pirates-out-of-water adventure.

In The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Hugh Grant voices the Pirate Captain, a lovably bumbling bloke who sails the seven seas with his equally bumbling crew. When the Pirate King (Brian Blessed) announces the annual Pirate of the Year Award, the Pirate Captain is determined to take home the prize, despite being up against some of the best pirates to fly the Jolly Roger.

After several failed attempts to collect more booty than his competitors, the Pirate Captain is ready to throw in the towel and consider another career path—until he meets Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Darwin convinces the Pirate Captain to come to London, where his beloved parrot could win him the riches needed to show up his over-confident competitors. But Darwin’s plan lands the pirates in danger when they cross paths with the pirate-hating Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton).

As is typically the case with any Aardman film, The Pirates! Band of Misfits is a playful and quirky adventure, with a distinctly British sense of humor. At times, it’s clever and witty, with smart little details and unexpected references to entertain the grown-ups in the audience. At other times, it’s completely off-the-wall, with slapstick silliness to keep the kids giggling.

Still, it isn’t quite as quirky or off-the-wall as it could have been. Some of the jokes work remarkably well, while others simply fall flat. For the most part, though, it seems to be holding back, missing out on some of the best comedic opportunities. Instead of playing up on his typical lovably bumbling persona, for instance, Grant actually seems to be trying to voice a real (mostly-serious) pirate captain—and, as a result, his character is amusing but not hilarious.

The story, meanwhile, meanders from one thing to another. You never know where this adventure will take you—whether it’s Darwin’s creepy old house, the streets of Victorian London, or a convention hall filled with scientists. But the film’s at its fun-filled best when it’s sailing the high seas, pillaging and looting other ships (or at least attempting to do so). And when it leaves the pirate ship and joins Darwin on land, it lacks the same kind of playful pirating fun.

The striking animation definitely lives up to Aardman’s high standards—and kids and parents will both appreciate the varying styles of humor. But The Pirates! Band of Misfits isn’t the wild-and-crazy pirating adventure that you might be expecting.

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