‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ Review
An amusing high-seas adventure, but that’s about it.
Stop-motion animation has its own charm to it and 2009’s ‘Coraline’ proved that the subgenre still has a lot of life in it. ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ tries to go bigger with the genre by attempting at an adventure comedy with the genre. And while there’s a certain amount of charm in the film and the third act is a lot of fun to watch, it never really anything more than just mildly amusing.
The film follows Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), an ambitious pirate of the high seas who explores the waters with his trusty crew ((Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey, and Ashley Jensen). But luck isn’t on his side most of the time and he almost always struggles in finding fitting booty for his adventures. But things change once he hears of the ‘Pirate of the Year Award’ which leads him to a grand adventure with some shady people including Queen Elizabeth that will make an unlikely hero out of him.
Aardman Animation has made a name for themselves for the charming stop motion adventures they’ve delivered to us in the past including ‘Chicken Run’ and ‘Wallace & Grommit’. So it’s always exciting to see what new they’re working on and this is certainly the biggest project of theirs so far. So how does it fare? Pretty well, I’d say. It has its own charm especially since it actually tries to tell the story of a pirate even though most moviegoers associate that setting immediately to ‘Pirates of the Carribean’. But it isn’t their best work and never really fully impresses during its runtime.
Anyone looking for a laugh out loud ride would be disappointed because the humor here is quite restraint and hardly ever goes overboard in terms of comedy. But it is very funny for the most part and will have you giggling at the witty jokes and one liners that the screenplay delivers on. The characters are very charming and memorable, which can’t be said for most animated movies that aren’t by Pixar. But at the same time, there are quite a few slapstick attempts at humor that fall flat and kill the momentum. There are even stretches where the film is not even funny and very plot-oriented. That would be totally fine usually, but the problem is that the film doesn’t really have a consistently engaging plot. The concept is pretty funny, but the second act of the film feels aimless and has a more slack pacing than the rest of the film. The momentum dies down and it feels more filler than actual plot. These are the things that ultimately keep ‘Pirates’ from being anything more than an amusing adventure.
But right when you’re close to dismissing the film, it delivers a spectacular and exciting finale that redeems the flaws of the second act. The pacing picks up rapidly as we’re thrust into an actual ‘Pirates of the Carribean’-like action sequence which is not only entertaining to watch but well-written too. It’s here that the film finally embraces its sea-combat roots and the result is funny and action-packed. The best part is that the film ends with actually leaving you wanting more, instead of overstaying its welcome after a strong finale.
As you already know, this is stop motion animation and it’s a style that thankfully still is peristent in Hollywood and always carries an ‘indie’ feel. The film looks very good and more epic than most stop motion pictures actually do, thanks to the a blend of CGI when it comes to the skies and the water to make it more realistic. The 3D, however, is an afterthought and doesn’t really feel worth the price for the most part.
The voice cast is solid here, with the highlight being Hugh Grant who gives a hilarious performance as Pirate Captain and steals the show. Other voice actors range from known actors like Martin Freeman to unknowns and all of them are pitch perfect with their characters and actually are a big part of why the characters seem distinctive.
‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ feels fresh and original and is a fun film to watch. It’s definitely amusing and you will find yourself having a good time. Just don’t expect any sort of greatness.