Not many people in America know the name Aardman Animations.
The company is based in England and has a very good body of work, which many Americans have seen.
Aardman was started in 1972 by Peter Lord and David Sproxton. Their work includes the films “Chicken Run” and “Flushed Away.” They also produce the “Wallace and Gromit” shorts originally aired by the BBC. Now they have a new feature film called “The Pirates! A Band of Misfits.”
Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) yearns to win the Pirate of the Year Award. He and his crew have tried to accomplish that goal for years. Instead, he has seen it go to other pirates who have pillaged more or stolen more booty. This year seems no different, until Captain and his crew run into Charles Darwin (David Tennant). He tells them that Polly, Captain’s parrot, is not a parrot but a Dodo bird that would get them untold riches if they present her to the scientific community.
They take Polly to London to get this great reward, but someone wants to steal Polly. Plus, they must steer clear of Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), who absolutely detests pirates.
The plot may seem simple. But the folks at Aardman are good at making their films fun, and this one is no exception. Some funny moments come from the script and some are hidden in the scenery. Little things here and there really make this film enjoyable.
For example, Mr. Bobo, a trained chimpanzee, does talk, but he speaks by showing printed cards. Who knows where they come from, but some of his messages are very funny. Also, when Captain is leading his crew to pillage other ships, they find a wide variety of themed ships they would really rather avoid.
With all the attention to detail, it's a wonder that it ever got done. The filming for "Pirates" took about 500 days! Not the planning. Not the construction. Just the filming. That is a testament to Aardman and its willingness to make a quality movie, which this is. It’s not a film with a huge social message but it is entertaining for the whole family.
There is some cartoon violence, including people being stabbed, but it is out of frame. There is no sensuality, even though the crew wonders about one of the pirates who has a few more curves then they do. Captain does put his head on a chopping block and must face the executioner, but he is not harmed. The humor isn't anything scary or intense.
Kids will really enjoy this film, and don’t worry — there are no action figures to buy.
It’s nice to know that there are quality movies out there for families. Plus, it's great to see artists who take the time to care about their project.
Shawn O'Neill is the Family Man Movie Reviewer on BYU Radio. His reviews can be heard on BYURadio.org and on SiriusXM Channel 143.