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'Pirates! Band of Misfits', A Claymation Classic in the Making

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012

Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 13:04

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Starring Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton

Directed by Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt

Rated PG

Opens Friday

Grade: B


For each decade there is a particular brand of children’s entertainment that will be fondly remembered later in life. The movies and cartoons that are coming out will someday be the subject of nostalgia, giving this generation’s youth something new to latch onto. Regardless of the quality of the film, “Pirates! Band of Misfits” will be someone’s childhood memory.

Movies aimed at children do have a responsibility to their audience, simply because it’s likely that cinema experiences will be a child’s first encounter with real storytelling. Animated or not, kids’ films introduce characters, technique, conflict and pacing.

When you get down to it, that is a lot of pressure placed on what could be considered nothing more than diversionary entertainment. But the best movies of this type wind up being those memorable features that get passed on to someone’s child, grandchild, etc.

The question becomes, does “Pirates!” have the potential to last beyond the 90-minute runtime in some toddler’s future recollection?

The answer, clearly, is that it does.

Set in the late 19th century, “Pirates!” tells the tale of the appropriately named Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant). While fighting off rival pirates and evading a hilariously inaccurate Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), Pirate Captain attempts to capture this year’s Pirate of the Year award.

As a very basic equation, the value of movie ‘X’ should be equal to or greater than the running time spent divided by the cost of the movie ticket. For parents or older relatives who might be on the fence, rest easy in knowing that “Pirates!” is well worth it.

In fact, “Pirates!” succeeds on a very simple principal that also determines how well it will last in memory: the jokes that are aimed at adults in this very kid-friendly movie are some of the most sly, witty references you will see this year.

It’s not just the pop culture references most seen in the “Shrek” movies, relying on references like that will only serve to date the movie or make it very apparent when the movie was made. Yes, there are a few of those jokes in here and even some that seem dated for 20 years ago. But there are a handful of brilliant sight gags that those kids will eventually grow up to understand and can someday look back on with laughter.

Best of all, “Pirates! Band of Misfits” is a stop-motion, claymation feature in the same style as “Chicken Run” and “Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Wererabbit.” Just like those now-classic movies, “Pirates!” is gorgeous. The seamless movements, complex animation and detailed characters stand out perfectly on the big screen. Adding depth to the movie, the 3D is expertly handled and actually more immersive than most 3D experiences. If nothing else, this movie is going to inspire a new generation of animators.

That’s probably the best compliment the “Pirates! Band of Misfits” can get. Jokes do fall flat and some of the voice acting is simply unremarkable. But on the day it comes out in theaters someone, somewhere is going to have a new nostalgic favorite.

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