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The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 85th Annual Academy Awards

It’s certainly a hoot, and my 7-year-old sure seemed to be having a grand old time as we cuddled up on the family room couch with a few blazing logs in the fireplace and yelled out the occasional “Aaaaaargh!”—with one eye closed, of course. Is it better than “Frankenweenie”, “ParaNorman” or “Wreck-It Ralph”? Not really, I guess—those three are in a virtual tie for my favorite Oscar-nominated feature from 2012. But I certainly prefer it over the disappointingly average “Brave”(btw-I’m silently rooting for “Frankenweenie” to grab the award, because it’s good enough—and it would be nice to witness Tim Burton finally snagging an Oscar). Its boisterous band of merrymakers were a bit too frenetic for me at times, and its story line isn’t particularly inspired(a contest to win “Pirate of the Year”?). But it’s a fun-filled romp, nonetheless. And what a group of voice actors for this stop-motion delight! Hugh Grant—Martin Freeman—Imelda Staunton—Salma Hayek…all turning in wonderful, distinctive work. The music is pretty sweet too, with recognizable hits from Supergrass and The Clash.

The Pirate Captain(Mr. Grant)is a sub-par pirate leading a band of amateurs who want to make a name for themselves as mirthful marauders. Trying to prove himself to his young charges, the Pirate Captain enters into the Pirate of the Year competition, awarded to the pirate leader who can “plunder the most”. Failing miserably after several attempts at plundering, the Pirate King confides in his first mate(Mr. Freeman)that he may just give pirating up to sell baby clothes(!). But then a stroke of luck. Upon the next ship invasion they succeed in capturing Charles Darwin! And the budding naturalist(it’s 1837, so Darwin would have been in his 20’s)soon informs the pirates that their bird mascot, Polly, may indeed be the last living dodo! Darwin convinces the Pirate King to divert to London to exhibit Polly in the Scientist of the Year contest, a prize that Mr. Darwin covets so he can impress Her Majesty Queen Victoria(Ms. Staunton)—with whom Darwin has an infatuation. One problem though—the Queen despises pirates…and she aims to behead every one of them. The Pirate King’s identity is soon discovered by the furious Queen, but Darwin convinces her to spare him—if only so she can attempt to steal for herself the rare exotic bird.

Chases, close calls, sea monsters and the Pirate of the Year competition all soon come into play and provide plenty of laughs. The film has a keen sense of humour and it sprinkles in plenty of cultural and historical jokes for those who are old enough to drive. Plus, you’ll discover for yourself how Salma Hayek can even be sexy as a cartoon(see also: “Puss in Boots”, for further confirmation of this). “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is another stop-motion clay animated feature from the team that gave us the excellent “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”(2005 Oscar winner for Best Animated feature). And while their latest doesn’t quite achieve the same dizzying heights, it’s pretty darn good all the same. Aaaaaargh!      Grade:  B

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