Friday, May 11, 2012
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
...Wait sorry, I seem to have written the first paragraph of this review in some bizarro pocket universe. Let me correct my dimensional perspective and do this seriously.
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits"* is a UK stop motion animation film by Aardman Animations, who you may better know as the guys who did "Wallace and Gromit". I don't really know Aardman as well as I should, but they've made a few movies that I've liked, especially 2006's "Flushed Away". By the way, funny story about that one, "Flushed Away" was only made because Aardman was told that because of the popularity of "Pirates of the Caribbean", nobody would want to see a pirates movie, which is what they were originally going for. Now that "Pirates of the Caribbean" has exactly zero avid fans left (besides yours truly), they finally got to make their dream project. So you got pirates, a thing I like, and irrelevant British humor, I thing I really like, and finally David Tennant, a thing I REALLY like to the point of questionable heterosexuality, plays Charles Darwin. What more could you want?
And indeed, I left this movie wanting exactly nothing. "The Pirates!" seems to be pretty low on the pop culture radar, it isn't some huge cultural event like "Avengers" or whatever. Its just a fun little movie. Really funny, really clever, really silly, and it just leave you happy inside. A sweet thing, like "The Muppets".
As you might have gathered, this is a comedy movie, so I'm slightly out of my depth here. I usually review dramas, or at least things that are telling a story at a serious core, so I'm out of my element here. Then again, I long ago decided that the real world was some kind of bizarre postmodern comedy, so maybe I know more about humor than I think.
You might have noticed how utterly generic the title for this film is. Just "The Pirates!", like they couldn't think of anything more than that? Its naming "Once Upon a Time in the West" "The Cowboys" or "Goofellas" "The Mobsters". However this is actually a weird running joke. Because the main character, the pirate captain is named 'Pirate Captain'. His crew consists of "Pirate with a Scarf", "Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate", "Albino Pirate", and others, all without names. As for what any of this is supposed to mean, I haven't a clue, but it does make it harder to explain to people what movie I had just seen. Its a bit wacky. Of course, this entire movie is wacky. I strongly suggest you take the time to notice every little detail in the background, there is not a frame in this movie without some kind of great joke hidden off to the side.
The pirates aren't really very nasty people. Their more of a family of adventurers than cutthroats. They enjoy ham night, the Pirate Captain wants to win Pirate of the Year Award, and their beloved pet is a fat parrot, Polly. On their journeys they meet none other than Charles Darwin, who discovers that Polly is in fact the last remaining Dodo, and that with her he could win the Big Scientist Competition in London. Now do you see where the British title comes from? The Charles Darwin and science adventure is the main plot of the movie, which was really surprising to me since the trailers did not even hint at this turn of events. Yeah, not only is "Pirates!" funny and fun, its also a tiny bit educational (well... not really). The Young Queen Victoria hates pirates since they're the last major threat to her maritime empire. She wants Polly to add to her menagerie in her castle, and will do anything to get the bird, including whipping out twin samurai swords and jumping around Further-King Bradley-style.
Oh, by the way, the Pirate Captain is actually a dead ringer for Woody from "Toy Story" just add facial hair.
Ultimately "Pirates!" is a pretty solid little movie, though probably not going to reinvent anything. Its light fun. Honestly, these days I find the only comedies I really enjoy are kid's movies. I don't know when regular adult comedies got so disgusting that "Animal House" comes off as almost Victorian and repressed, but all I know is that I bailed on "Bridesmaids" in about ten minutes. So I guess comedy is now a PG domain for me? How depressing.
More importantly, "The Pirates!" has left a ton of plot points open. For example, Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate is obviously female, she fools exactly nobody with a sponge beard. This is never addressed, so I assume that's the plot of the sequel. This movie is based off of a book series I've never heard of, and I assume the studio will adapt a few of the later books. Personally I got my fingers crossed on "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists".
* Also known in that bizarro alternate dimension known as "everywhere that isn't America" under the title of "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists". The title was changed in the US because Americans hate science.