The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists! (2012)

Like all good pirates, The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) is completely useless, but that doesn’t stop him and his motley crew of sea cucumber-alikes, walking coat-hangers and fish in hats from entering Pirate of the Year, the seven seas’ most coveted prize for budding buccaneers. Up against the likes of Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) and Peg-Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry), The Pirate Captain finds himself out-gunned and out-looted as he is forced to consider other ways of claiming the title. When an encounter with Charles Darwin (David Tennant) aboard a sinking Beagle alerts him to the value of his not-a-parrot pet dodo, The Pirate Captain plans to use his promised scientific riches to finally win the prize. That’s if a crusading Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) doesn’t catch them first.

After experimenting with digimation in last year’s absolutely lovely Arthur Christmas (and, er, 2006’s  not-so-lovely Flushed Away), Aardman Animation return to their humble, stop-motion beginnings in the vein of earlier classics Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Thumb-prints firmly reinstated, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists! adapts the first two instalments in Gideon Defoe’s acclaimed series of children’s books for the big screen. Given its subject matter and child-friendly tone, immediate comparisons with Disney’s live-action Pirates of the Caribbean franchise are perhaps inevitable.

Inevitable but unnecessary, it seems, as The Pirates! couldn’t be more different from its Caribbean forebears; childishly simple, consistently witty and effortlessly charming, Aardman’s trademark stamp of quality instantly marks it apart from the convoluted, humourless tangle of faceless plotpoints that Pirates of the Caribbean has become infamous for. Boasting the depth of humour and attention to detail that makes Aardman releases so inherently rewatchable, The Pirates! is a joy for all ages, from beginning to end, not unlike February’s similarly delightful The Muppets.

Written by Defoe himself, The Pirates! is an absolute treasure trove of sharp, smart wit and ridiculous asides, picking and choosing only the best lines from his source novel, leaving just enough room for the talented voice-cast to stretch their comedic muscles. The dialogue, erudite and quotable as it may be, is still only half of the story, with the true joy of any Aardman animation being the painstakingly perfected sight-gags that pepper just about every scene, lying in wait of their inevitable discovery, even if its not until the second or third viewing. With the astonishing amount of work that goes into even the slightest of interactions (the film itself took approximately five years to finish), the filmmakers by now have slapstick down to a fine art.

With so much on offer it might seem a little ungrateful to be left still wanting more. There are so many fantastic characters worthy of attention that a great number unfortunately find themselves sidelined as the filmmakers focus on Hugh Grant’s admittedly brilliant Pirate Captain. Every moment that’s not packed with pithy rapport and ingenious Easter eggs – and, I can’t believe I’m even complaining about this, there are a few – seems wasted, the genteel musings a couple of soiled pants short of comedy gold, while the likes of Salma Hayek and Lenny Henry are squandered in the merest scattering of scenes. With talk of a sequel and a handful of books yet to adapt, however, there is a very good chance that this might one day be put right.

Another classic from the British masters of animation, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists! is everything you could possibly wish from Aardman Animation and more. As with The Muppets, however, such ageless charm seems to have come at a price, with the appreciative smile adorning audience’s faces rarely developing into the hysterical laughter that the premise perhaps deserves.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists! (2012)

  1. Pingback: March 2012 – Fire all things that go bang! « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: The Lorax (2012) « popcornaddict

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