The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) wants more than anything to be respected in the pirate community. A consistent underdog, the Captain once again enters the race for the Pirate of the Year award before being blown away by the stout competition. Determined to change his fortune, the Captain and his crew set out on a series of misadventures that fail to bring home the booty they had expected. Desperate and downtrodden, the crew comes across a lonely scientist who turns out to be none other than Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Darwin informs the Captain that his parrot, Polly, is actually the last remaining dodo bird. Sensing an opportunity to make his fortune, the Captain enters Polly in a scientific contest, unwitting opening himself up to the ire of Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton).
Admittedly I am not in the target audience for The Pirates! Band of Misfits. I am not a child nor do I have children and more importantly, I’ve never been a big fan of the previous Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt collaborations. While I respect the Wallace and Gromit films and Chicken Run, I haven’t found a reason to fully buy into any of these movies and I’ve certainly never held much excitement for them. The style of animation is cool in a retro, simple sort of way but quite honestly, I’ve found all of the Lord-Newitt films to be boring and unfunny. Frankly, I’d given up on these collaborations entirely before The Pirates. The trailer piqued my interest though and I ended up being genuinely intrigued by the time I got around the seeing it.
As is the case far too often, however, almost all of the parts I really enjoyed about The Piratesfound its way into the blasted trailer and therefore fell flat in the context of the film. There are a few more laughs here and there but for the most part, if you saw the trailer (and how could you avoid it, honestly, given how fervently the studio pushed it) then you’ve already cashed in most of the movie’s bigger chips. The monkey who communicates through humorous cards, the misguided pirating shenanigans, the sea monster bit, etc. all of the funnier bits can be found in the three minute preview. On the flip side, much of the film’s plot is completely unexpected and the tone is significantly different than what I imagined going in. The Darwin component caught me off guard and the twist that he initially brings to the table is great. But those plot points are almost always swallowed up by the lack of interest that began brewing within me from very beginning.
The Piratesdefinitely has a British sensibility at its core and that comes in to play in terms of the unhurried, meticulous way in which Lord and Newitt take the audience through the narrative. I love British films and television shows and I thoroughly appreciate the detailed way that British filmmakers tend to tell their story. But good grief, that style just doesn’t work at all in a kid’s film. I cannot imagine any of the kids I work with even sitting through The Pirates let alone coming away impressed. I laughed a few times and I enjoyed the handful of obligatory adult-themed bits, but I had to work to get through this film more than I ever should when watching an 88 minute kid’s movie.