The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists, sees Aardman – the animators who brought us Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run – return to the stop motion animation they are famous for. There’s certainly a lot of pride in Britain for Aardman and it’s comforting to see them return to their stop motion roots. Pirates! clearly demonstrates their incredible talent for it and it’s definitely an improvement on the CGI Arthur Christmas that they gave us at the end of last year. The level of detail in Pirates! is immense and their model version of Victorian London is nothing short of beautiful.
Based on the first of Gideon Defoe’s collection of children’s books about aptly named The Pirate Captain, An Adventure With Scientists sees him attempt to win the Pirate Captain Of The Year award after years of humiliation and failure. But, on raiding Charles Darwin’s ship, The Pirate Captain instead becomes embroiled in a scheme to win Scientist of the Year and comes up against the film’s villain, Queen Victoria, hater of all things Pirate.
Far from being terrifying, The Pirate Captain has a pleasant face and a seemingly gentle nature. It’s hard to imagine him terrorising anyone to add to his swag. Hugh Grant voices him perfectly, making him an unlikely winner who the audience roots for from the beginning. Imelda Staunton is also outstanding as the voice of furious Queen Victoria, who becomes the most memorable character of the whole film.
But, whilst some of Pirates! supporting characters are exciting and it’s disappointing that we get to see very little of them (such as rivals Black Bellamy, Cutlass Liz and crew member Pirate With Gout) others (such as Number Two and Albino Pirate), verge on boring and annoying.
The Pirates! is full of Aardman’s quirky sense of humour and is brimming with typically British jokes (including a lovely biscuit dunking tea gag). Of course this is just what we would expect from the Wallace and Gromit creators. The film’s backgrounds are littered with puns that spill out into Pirates! advertising – even the film’s website sports a traditionally styled ‘Welcome to Blood Island, twinned with Weston-Super-Mare’ sign. And, being backed by a Brit-Pop soundtrack makes Pirates! even more unusual.
But Pirates! quality humour is also mixed with a great deal of silliness too. Darwin is portrayed as a nerd with no hope of getting a girlfriend and the ship’s crew are smitten with ‘ham night’. There’s also a strange jumble of historical time periods that nitpickers will find hard to swallow, particularly as the film’s characters claim this is ‘our most educational adventure ever’. For instance, The Pirate Captain makes a phone sign and uses modern street talk, while Queen Victoria herself reels off a speech based on one given by Queen Elizabeth I. But this is merely part of Pirates! unique style.
Pirates! is not on a par with the originality and brilliance of Wallace and Gromit but it does have a charm of its own. With laughs for both adults and children, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists is a fine choice for the Easter break.
VERDICT: ✪ ✪ ✪
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