The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

Director: Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt
Plot: Hugh GrantSalma Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant
Cast: Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz for the Pirate of the year Award. The quest takes Captain and his crew from the shores of Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London.

Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Awards: Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Animated Feature
Runtime: 88min
Rating: PG for mild action, rude humor and some language.



Avast! I'm a pirate captain, and I'm here for your gold!

Remember Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the stop-motion animation than won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2005? Yes, Aardman Animations, the company that brought you that film, the creative ‘Wallace & Gromit’ shorts, and features like Chicken Run (2000), is now back with another stop-motion effort, The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Directed by Peter Lord and co-directed by Jeff Newitt, the film is generally an entertaining one, more so for kids than adults (though the latter would be in a better position to appreciate the film’s sociopolitical undercurrent), and calls to attention the level of painstaking detail that stop-motion animators have to commit in their delicate craft.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits takes an admittedly straightforward story about a pirate, the appropriately-named Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), who attempts to rally his motley crew to try to win him the prestigious prize he so desperately craves but that has eluded him for years – the Pirate of the Year Award, and fashions it into a morality tale of comedic proportions.

It is, first and foremost, a tale of adventure, courage, loyalty, and friendship. But underneath the gloss, there is something more. The Pirate Captain, however bad or cruel he may be in the past, is portrayed as the hero. His main nemesis, Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), the royal authority and respected figure of Britain, has a diabolical interest at heart. What links both of them together is a yellow dodo that is about to get… (I’ll leave you to find that out!)

Whether intentionally or not, the filmmakers raise questions on the implications of governance behind closed doors (i.e. authoritarianism without transparency), as well as the treatment of minority groups, in this case, the pirates who are relegated to the high seas. The Pirates! Band of Misfits sees its characters looking for the fundamental truth – why am I a pirate? What made me become a pirate?

Discard all these issues of identity and authority, and the film still treads along fine. It is not the most charming of stop-motion animated features, but there are moments that will induce laughter not simply because they are funny, but because they are imaginatively funny like in the scenes involving the chemical properties of baking soda in the climax.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits inevitably suffers from ‘pirate fatigue’ caused by the existence of movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) , and other animated features involving pirates like Ice Age 4: Continental Drift (2012), but it makes the effort to transcend stereotypes while at the same time embracing frivolous qualities of, well, piracy.

Verdict: Not the most charming of stop-motion animation features, but it makes a good night's entertainment with kids.


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