John Hanlon Movie Reviews

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Pirates Band of Misfits Poster

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Genre: Action and Adventure

Director: Peter Lord

Cast: Hugh Grant, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton, Martin Freeman, Jeremy Piven

MPAA-Rating: PG

Release Date: April 27th 2012

Pirates have had their share of onscreen appearances over the past few years. For one, Johnny Depp—whose eccentric personality as Jack Sparrow in 2003’s The Pirates of the Carribbean earned him an Oscar nomination—has become the face of pirates for many theatergoers.

But last weekend, another face of piracy arrived in theaters and this time both parents and young children will be able to enjoy a tale of adventure on the high seas.

The Pirates: Band of Misfits, a feature that relies on stop-motion animation, is a rare treat. It’s a high-quality animated film that wasn’t created by Pixar. Instead, the movie was created by directors Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt, who brought audiences 2000’s delightful Chicken Run.

Pirates tells the story of the naïve but empathetic Pirate Captain, whose quirky crew is full of intriguing characters. Voiced by Hugh Grant, this captain has his eye on one particular prize and it’s probably not the prize you imagine. Instead of seeking gold and treasure, his goal is to win the highly sought-after “Pirate of the Year Award,” a recognition that has alluded him for years. He’s like the Susan Lucci of the pirate kingdom. Although his ragtag gang supports his endeavor, his rivals for the prize mock his ineptitude.

So the Captain takes an adventure that will hopefully bring him to the prize. Along the way, this sensitive seaman comes into contact with the despised Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) and– oddly enough—author Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Victoria is known “as the enemy of pirates everywhere” so the Captain and his crew must disguise themselves in her presence or face a near-certain death. The scenes involving Darwin are played for laughs as the author plans to use the Captain’s pet parrot to his own advantage. Watching Darwin appear onscreen, I assumed that the film would focus on his evolutionary research. Instead, it settles for a few sly references to his work and earns a few guffaws along the way.

One of the best things about this film is the creative ways that it incorporates humor into  its endearing story. From the pirates’ attempts to disguise themselves in the company of Victoria to the Pirate Captain’s botched plan to steal money from other ships to a silent monkey’s cue cards that tell audiences what he’s thinking, Pirates inventively earns its laughs time and again.

Children will enjoy the film’s wonderful animation while parents will enjoy its quirky brand of comedy. Additionally, the movie also subtly packs in a strong moral message about the value of friendship over fame.

At one point, towards the end of the film, the Pirate Captains says, “It’s only impossible if you stop to think about it.” It’s a sentiment played for laughs but more valuable than a punch line. With so many children’s films aiming to achieve a low bar and just attract kids into the theater, Pirates is full of surprises.

Movies like this are rare but not impossible to find. “Stop thinking about it” and check out this family film today.

Review by: John Hanlon



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