Thursday 29 March 2012

Review: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists poster

The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists (3D)
(or :Band of Misfits if you're in the US.)
88 mins / Dir. Peter Lord

Desperate to win the Pirate of the Year Award, Pirate Captain faces humiliation at the hands of his peers until a chance encounter with Charles Darwin brings the Pirate Crew to Victorian London, and they cross paths with renowned pirate-hater, Queen Victoria herself…

The Good: A wonderfully sharp script and brisk pacing keeps The Pirates whizzing along more or less constantly. Thankfully free of the twee-ness that can often hold Aardman features back, there's arguably more here for the adults than there is for the kids. The broad sight-gags and slapstick will appeal to both, for sure, but there's a swathe of references and visual easter-eggs targeted at the older generation, which raise it above your standard 'kid-film' (I swear blind that was the postbox from Danger Mouse), and the soundtrack is a Brit-snapshot of the seventies and eighties. Marvellous stuff.

The voice-acting is everything you'd expect from a cast as reliable as this, with Hugh Grant, David Tennant and Imelda Staunton all leading strongly, and Russell Tovey, Martin Freeman, Ashley Jensen and Brendan Gleeson giving a lot of character without jostling for position.

What I enjoyed the most was the unabashed silliness of the whole thing. The pirates' obsession with ham, their misguided belief that they can disguise themselves at all, Charles Darwin's hyper-intelligent and totally deadpan manpanzee sidekick; all of these (and more) could have easily fallen flat or been overkill, but each works on its own and as part of an hour-and-a-half tapestry of absurdity.

Great, great fun. And I'm not even really into the pirate-thing.

The Bad: The pace seemed to slacken between acts 2 and 3 while the obligatory sentimentality was played out, but that's par for the course anyway, and was only noticeable because of the scenes surrounding it. Also, at several points I looked over my 3D glasses and what was on-screen was exactly the same. Not a bad conversion, but underused certainly, and all-the-darker for being in 3D.

The Ugly: Nothing to report. Seriously.

After the Credits: There's a bunch of callbacks and background-props to have a good look at during the end credits if you're interested, but once the screen goes black, that's the end. There's no content, if you know what I mean, so the kids may not appreciate waiting around.

All-in-All: Unashamedly a kids-film, but when it's done as brilliantly as this, who cares? Sequels and spin-offs look to be a certainty, but that's fine by me.


^^ A very, very strong six. Almost full marks, but I don't know if I'll get a lot out of seeing it again, even with the easter-eggs.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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