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The Pirates! Band of Misfits - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Directing: B
Acting: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+
Animation: B+

Sooo . . . anyone heard of Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! series of books? Well, I hadn't. Maybe that's why much of The Pirates! Band of Misfits was lost on me. At least much of the British humor was. There's a lot going on that's clearly meant to be funny, but then kind of isn't.

On the other hand, the other half of the time, the film is just about funny enough. I got a semi-regular kick out of its concept, which was preposterous even for a typical animated film: the Pirate Captain submits himself for the Pirate of the Year award. He ends up teaming up with none other than Charles Darwin, who may or may not be his enemy, in an endeavor to procure "untold riches." How does he do this? By entering his parrot into a science show, of course! Because Darwin recognizes Polly to be not a parrot, but a dodo bird, long thought to be extinct -- even in this alternate-universe mid-19th-Century setting.

To say the plot takes roundabout routes would be an understatement. Not that it matters; this kind of movie is meant to be experienced in the moment. I can't say it demands to be seen on the big screen -- there's so much going on, and any given seen is so tenuously tied to any other, that it would be ideal for watching at home while engaged in some other task. Ironing, perhaps. God knows there's no reason to pay to see this movie in 3D; it's frankly ridiculous that it was even offered that way.

There's nothing particularly wrong with it, though. The Pirates! is adequately entertaining. You may find yourself trying to place the voices of many of the characters -- the Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant); the obsessively pirate-hating Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton); the Pirate with a Scarf, otherwise known to the Pirate Captain as "Number Two" (Dr. Who's David Tennant); competing pirate Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek); the Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson); the Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens (Al Roker); and more. For me at least, recognizing the names was part of the fun.

There is some very goofy humor. There's a running gag about combining vinegar with baking powder -- something that at one point sinks a giant ship. I keep thinking about the fish in a hat that was sitting at a dinner table.

The Pirates! tends to get a little too busy for its own good -- pandering to children's short attention spans, perhaps. The hyperactive screwball sequences don't tend to be as funny, but I got regular chuckles out of small gags in the details -- a throwaway comment here, an almost-covert sight gag there. I've seen animated features that were far smarter, far more clever, and notably more entertaining -- even ones not made by Pixar. On the other hand, I've seen much worse on all fronts as well. This falls squarely in the solid "good" range -- worse than great but better than average.

But, unless you're a major sucker for wacky British humor -- and perhaps a big fan of Wallace & Gromit-type animation and storytelling -- you really don't need to go rushing out to see this one. But you can go ahead and watch it eventually on DVD, I'll give it that.

the pirates! band of misfits

Overall: B
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