Released: 28th March 2012
Directed by: Peter Lord
Starring: Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven
Reviewed by: Mark Hester
“You’ll see. I will be Pirate of the Year! And then you’ll be laughing on the other side of your faces. And believe me, that is a very painful thing to do.” After watching The Pirates, it’s safe to agree with the Pirate Captain as the laughs coming thick and fast make this side-splitting fun to laugh away at from start to finish in Aardman Animation’s triumphant return to stop-motion following last year’s festive CG success with winter smash Arthur Christmas.
The ragtag group of lovable scallywags set out to recover from years of degradation and humiliation and prove to their looting, plundering peers that they aren’t the laughing stocks they would seem. The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) is a charmingly and oddly mellow leader aiming to finally win the highly coveted Pirate of the Year award that has previously eluded him. Facing stiff competition from the increasingly successful Peg Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry), Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) and reigning champ Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), our crew set sail along the seven seas, enduring a series of hilarious mishaps and miscalculations along the way.
Eventually, against all odds thus far, the pirates commandeer a boat carrying the great Charles Darwin (David Tennant) and very little worth plundering. It is the last straw for the captain who is all but set to give up until Darwin manages to convince the crew of a potential mutual interest at stake. All hands on deck as the crew set a course for London, England and into Queen Victoria’s domain, failing to heed the warnings of her mild distaste for pirates. Discovering various plots ahoy that neglect to coincide with the pirates’ needs, the must rally against past disappointment to save the day and finally take home Pirate of the Year and untold riches.
Given that its last stop-motion feature was 2005’s Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, it was always going to be interesting to see whether Aardman could return to such form and I think it is safe to say they jumped right back on track. Aardman has gradually increased its CG usage to augment its clay animated features and this really helps to supplement the visuals, making for a much richer and smoother animation for various background and scenery pieces.
The story is a fun-packed ride from start to finish as we follow the globe-trotting pirates through continents and costume changes galore. The jokes come left, right and centre will the throttle firmly set to full through the first half. Sadly, the ship seems to lose a little steam towards the end with the pirate gags starting to run on fumes and the plot going a little AWOL. There’s a lot of light-hearted humour as well as some more… informed laughs along the way so there’s a little something for everyone here and with a stellar voice cast (Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen, Brian Blessed and more) also bringing their hearty bellows, there is no shortage of talent to boot here too.
Perhaps not quite as warm or entertaining as their last outing, The Pirates is still another superb effort from the Aardman team, further showing their right to be considered in the same tier as other notable animation studios. Perfectly timed with an Easter holiday release in the UK, this is perfect family fun to get down to the cinema for matey, or there’ll be planks to walk otherwise! ARRR!