The Pirates! Band of Misfits Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt

The Pirates! Band of Misfits Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt
Much like Claymation predecessors Wallace and Gromit and more specifically, director Peter Lord's previous feature film, Chicken Run, The Pirates! Band of Misfits relies on playful banter and educated references amidst the kid-friendly shenanigans and chicanery. It's a style that ensures that adult viewers have as much fun as children, walking away with an appreciation for the historical improprieties and insinuations about Darwin's sexual proclivities and Queen Victoria's psychotic disposition, rather than the sheer zaniness of the many action sequences that will appeal to the tots.

These historical figures get mixed up in a narrative involving a pirate captain (Hugh Grant) that struggles to be taken seriously out on the open water, desperately wanting to win "pirate of the year," only to be consistently overshadowed by those with more substantive booty: Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek). While trying to prove himself a worthy contestant, the pirate captain stumbles onto the sneaky Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who attempts to steal his parrot (or Dodo) to show off at a Science exhibition for the mercurial Queen (Imelda Staunton).

Amidst this plot, which plays on the idea that true friendship is far more valuable than fleeting peer validation, are a highly intelligent monkey that looks suspiciously like Darwin and a band of pirates with various signifiers, like being albino, having gout or having a big beard to cover breasts. The jokes hit more than they miss, playing off the ineptitude and stupidity of the pirate captain who, as it turns out, is afraid to sail to England because of the giant decorative monster drawn on his map.

While not quite as riotous as Chicken or Wererabbit, delving into exposition more frequently due to a slightly more convoluted plot, this latest British animation import maintains the same tone as those films, almost reaching the same wholly satisfying degree of hilarity and wit.

It would be hard to imagine anyone not at least cracking a smile when a character exclaims matter of factly, "I'm being squashed by giant barrels of vinegar" as they are indeed being squashed by giant barrels of vinegar. (Sony)