Sunday, April 29, 2012

"The Pirates!" is Another Winner from Aardman

The Pirates!
Band of Misfits
Directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt
Written by Gideon Defoe
Produced by Julie Lockhart, Peter Lord and
David Sproxton
Distribution: Columbia Pictures
Studio: Aardman Animations / Sony Pictures Animation

Update: Turns out, the original British version of the film is different than the version we Americans got. In my original review, I referred to it by the original British title: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, so I'll be going by the American title, the dreadful The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Irreverent, funny and at times innovative, The Pirates! Band of Misfits is another home run hit for Aardman Animations. The film, based on the first two books in Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! series (he also wrote the screenplay), follows the adventures of the Pirate Captain (played by Hugh Grant) and his wily crew. The Pirate Captain desires to become the Pirate of the Year, but he's not that good of a pirate. The first act establishes this in a really fun way, as we see how the other contenders are so much better than he is. This plot is essentially the back bone to a much bigger plot, once the pirates wind up with Charles Darwin and his pet chimp, Bobo.

From there, the film becomes delightfully over-the-top. It's lot of fun, and best of all, the film itself knows it's ridiculous. It throws aways the rulebook and just simply goes out of its way to entertain, much like other irreverent films like Aladdin, The Emperor's New Groove and Shrek. It pretty much makes fun of several cliches while also poking fun at other films. The screenplay isn't spectacular by any means, but it does its job. It bombards you with silliness and humor that works. When I saw it, I noticed that the humor went over the heads of the audience members, both young and old. What a shame. Oh, and the cast? Most of them seemed to have a great time with this film, they give it their all. Hugh Grant shines as the lead. Unfortunately, the actors who re-dubbed the voices for this version didn't seem as enthusiastic.

The animation? Wonderful. Aardman's return to stop-motion animation is no dud, and the amount of work that went into making the film is astounding. This was probably a very tough project to tackle, and I'm guessing that this was in development for a while. CGI is used, which was inevitable, but it blends well although at times it didn't. (i.e. the sea monster that devours the ship) The film also makes use of (gasp!) traditional animation! That's right! The map montage scenes use classic hand-drawn animation, and trust me, the map scenes are very funny. The character designs are a return to the classic Aardman designs but with a few differences, something I missed in Arthur Christmas since their first CGI film (Flushed Away) still stuck to the classic designs. The character designs are fun, eye-catching and unique. They still have the Wallace and Gromit look, but they also look different in some ways.

If I had any problems with the film, it would've probably been the pacing. At times it really slowed down, but at other times it picked up and ripped through its runtime. At other times, the plot isn't anything special. It picks up significantly in the film's third act, which is wild and hilarious. By that point, the story's shortcomings don't matter. Another problem I had was that the version of the film we got was cut, apparently a few lines were re-dubbed to keep the PG rating and the Albino Pirate's voice was changed. In the original British version, he's voiced by Russell Tovey. In this version, he's voiced by Anton Yelchin. I noticed that his voice sounded different. A few other voices were changed as well. What a bummer. These changes were not necessary, but I'll save that for a rant.

B+. Another good film from Aardman that is significantly different from their earlier films, which is a good thing. Fine animation, a fun story and great performances make this film a riot worth seeing, despite the alterations made to this version of the film. Everything else works. Highly recommended.

Trailer Recap
I saw this in 2D in the afternoon. There weren't too many folks in the audience, and most of them didn't seem to enjoy it. It was pretty much the same reaction Arthur Christmas got when I saw that film a few months ago. The trailers we got? More of the same, but a few new ones... But no Brave trailer! Bummer.

Diary of Wimpy Kid: Dog Days - Ehhhh, not another one of these, but unlike most live-action children's films (yes, I consider these films children's films, not family films), this series is profitable. Thank goodness Judy Moody wasn't. - Opens August 3rd

To the Arctic 3D - This opened 9 days ago. Why did they show the trailer for this? We could've gotten the Brave trailer instead. Dang it!

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - This trailer wasn't as bad as the last one, but I'm probably going to pass on this one. It just looks so silly and over-the-top, and not in a good way. Oh well, the animation is nice and colorful. - Opens June 8th

Despicable Me 2 - This trailer got laughs from everyone in the audience, something the main attraction unfortunately did not. Again, this is only the teaser. I can't say much. - Opens July 3rd, 2013

ParaNorman - The same trailer that was attached to Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. It looks really good, but here's hoping we get another trailer that doesn't focus on the comedy and more on the ghoulish stuff. - Opens August 17th

Hotel Transylvania - It looks alright at best, not too crazy about the fact that it has a star-studded cast. Still, Genndy Tartakovsky is the director and the animation looks nice. - Opens September 28th

Next Up: The Avengers!

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