Today: April 10, 2024
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The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists

Released internationally as

Released
internationally as The Pirates! Band Of Misfits, the second film from Aardman
Animations this year after Arthur Christmas.
The Pirates! In An
Adventure With Scientists sees Hugh
Grant
’s Pirate Captain, with the aid of his misfit crew (Martin Freeman, Ashley Jensen, Brendan
Gleeson
, Russell Tovey),
attempting to beat his rivals Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), Cutlass Liz (Salma
Hayek
) and Peg-Leg Hastings (Lenny
Henry
) in the Pirate of the Year competition. But if they’re going to win, they’re going to need booty and
lots of it. And we’re not talking
the Beyonce type.

But booty is in short supply. Despite his luxuriant beard, his pirate
hat and his boundless enthusiasm, the Pirate Captain and his crew just aren’t
very good at the whole looting and plundering lark. Things start looking up however when they capture
love-starved, sexually frustrated and cowardly, young scientist Charles Darwin
(David Tennant) and his manpanzee
servant Mr Bobo. Darwin reckons
Polly, the Pirates’ big-boned parrot and mascot, may just be the last surviving
specimen of the extinct Dodo and could win them the coveted Scientist of the Year
award, making them rich beyond their wildest dreams. All they have to do is sneak into London, dressed as Girl
Scouts, while evading the pirate-hating Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) and her navy…

How funny you find The Pirates! In
An Adventure With Scientists will probably depend on two things; whether you’re
a fan of Aardman and the peculiarly quaint Englishness of their sense of humour
and whether you’ve seen the trailers which may have already spoiled all the best
jokes. Amusingly, the film has
already been in trouble with the World Health Organisation and the group Lepra
In Health for some negative reactions from the leprosy community over a scene
where the Pirate Captain tries to rob a boat-load of lepers. Who even knew there was such a thing as
a leprosy community or that they were so militant?

Faithful to the spirit of Gideon Defoe’s novels (who scripted),
the film is charming and chuckle-some without ever really being
braying-with-laughter hilarious.
The one-liners flow but there’s an over-reliance on puns and gags about
fish-in-hats and, disappointingly, nothing ever comes of the films best joke; Ashley
Jensen’s aptly named Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate, an obviously female pirate
with a fake orange beard. In fact
this bunch of lusty rogues are a curiously sexless lot, the only female
characters being Imelda Staunton’s villainous harridan and a glorified cameo by
Salma Hayek as the sexy but deadly
Cutlass Liz, the only hint of romance between Grant and Freeman.

As ever with Aardman the world the
Pirates inhabit is meticulously designed and there’s a wealth of visual gags
lurking in the background, particularly when they’re loose on the streets of
London or battling it out with the insane Queen Victoria aboard her flagship,
but you really shouldn’t have to search the back of the shot for laughs. The film retains the hand-crafted look
and stop-motion animation beloved by Aardman’s legions of fans with CG being
used to enhance and enrich some of the visual elements (the sea, etc) and is
being released in cerebral aneurism-inducing 3D which adds little to the
film.

The real strength of The Pirates!
In An Adventure With Scientists however is it’s cast. Hugh Grant is on spiffing Bertie Wooster form as the vain,
deluded Pirate Captain, a loveable buffoon whose ambitions far outstrip his
talents, and he’s ably supported by the likes of Martin Freeman as his
dependable second-in-command, Brendan Gleeson’s Pirate with Gout and the
afore-mentioned Jensen. Hayek,
Piven and Henry do little more than turn up and leave again and Brian Blessed
once more gives us Flash Gordon’s Prince Vultan as an incongruous Elvis-styled
Pirate King, though the film’s target audience is probably more familiar with
his work as Peppa Pig’s Grampy, while Imelda Staunton’s Queen Victoria is a
screechy 2D panto villain in a 3D film.
After years of saving the Universe as Doctor Who, David Tennant here cements his reputation as both a
sleazy weasel and quirky sidekick in a role that’s just less of a rock star
than his vampire-hunting turn in last year’s Fright Night.

Ultimately, while it is safe,
entertaining, undemanding family fun, The Pirates! In An Adventure With
Scientists just isn’t as much fun as it thinks it is. But it’s still better than the last three Pirates Of The
Caribbean films.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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