Brit Movie Reviews: Pirates! Band of Misfits – From the Creators of Wallace and Gromit

Review by JAMES BARTLETT

It’s 1857. Pirate-hating Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) is on the throne and her navy is on the march, but life aboard the ship of Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) is full of looting, cutlasses and regular Ham Nights – it’s just a shame that they’re not very good at their job.

It’s worse at this time of the year, because all the baddest pirates are assembling on Blood Island for the “Pirate of the Year” contest – and though he arrives confident he’s finally get the gong, there are other pirates with more booty and more fans.

Is it time to give up? His crew says he doesn’t need trophies to prove himself – and they have his faithful big-boned parrot, Polly – but Pirate Captain makes one last college try, and leaps onto the scientific ship of Charles Darwin (David Tennant). He has no gold, but he does notice something: Polly is no parrot, she’s a dodo. The last dodo. And a certain winner at the next “Scientist of the Year” award in London.

Dreaming of fame and fortune (at last), Pirate Captain ignores the pleas of his sensible number two, Pirate With A Scarf (Martin Freeman), and sails into the heart of Queen Vicky’s territory: London. The contest is won, and the Queen says she wants Polly for her petting zoo. She showers Pirate Captain with gold, and he duly goes on to be crowned “Pirate of The Year” – but then we find out why Queen Vicky really wanted Polly, and he loses everything. Now it’s time for Pirate Captain and Darwin and his monkey assistant to go to the rescue…

Looking great in Real 3D, this short and sweet adventure keeps up the pace, has plenty of jokes, some great set-pieces (reminding me a little of “Tintin”) and is as visually innovative and interesting as we expect from Aardman Animation. Hugh Grant sounds strangely unlike Hugh Grant but still makes the Pirate Captain come alive, and there are good bit voice parts from Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Brian Blessed, Lenny Henry, Brendan Gleeson and erstwhile US weatherman Al Roker.

That said, it’s distancing and rather inexplicable that none of the pirates have actual names, and since the pirate woman dressed as a man is never exposed (in any way), why have her at all? It’s a waste of a beard – in every sense of the word. Also, since Polly the Parrot/Dodo did nothing to deserve anyone’s endless adoration and wasn’t cute or charming (she just sat there), you wondered what all the fuss was about. Still, she was the last dodo – and any movie that has Queen Victoria (excellent work by Staunton) as a sword-wielding psycho gets my vote!

PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS

Director: Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt

Duration: 88 mins

Voices: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton, Brendan Gleeson

Score: 3½ out of 5