As soon as Johnny Depp played the Keith Richards-like Jack Sparrow in the famous "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, it seemed that the pirate movie genre really started back up again. I do like a swashbuckling adventure with some comedy thrown in there and I feel that "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" does just that. Being the first stop motion movie made at Aardman in seven years, the film marks their return to medium and I'll admit that I did have some fun with it. It's far from their greatest movie, but it was still fun.
In the year of 1837, pirates are notorious at sea roaming the waters and stealing from other ships, that is for The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant). Wanting to become the winner of the Pirate of the Year contest, he and his crew try to plunder many ships but to unsuccessful results. However, he does then come across the ship the HMS Beagle and it's passenger Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Seeing that the crews' pet Polly is actually the last dodo on the planet, Darwin decides to take the crew to London and enter it into a science fair unaware that he's planning on making off with the dodo to impress Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) who absolutely loathes pirates. What follows next is one of the craziest, yet still funny mishaps and mayhems that I'm not going to spoil here.
So as you can tell by the plot, this film is quite bizarre. The idea of pirates coming across Charles Darwin (before he came up with the concept of human evolution) seems quite silly, but Aardman was able to pull it off in a very funny fashion. There were definitely a lot of great gags in the movie like Darwin having a pet chimp who communicates through speech cards. It was also great seeing Aardman tackle stop motion once again. They really did do a great job with the computer animation in "Arthur Christmas", but personally nobody does stop motion as well as they do. Everything felt so lively and uptight that you can tell the painstaking work of moving each figure one frame at a time paid off. As for the characters, I think they also do have the charm to them. Hugh Grant is delightful as the Pirate Captain and you do feel sorry for him as he tried to become a great pirate. Charles Darwin as the straight mankind of works to considering its silliness, but the character who stole the show was Queen Victoria. I loved Imelda Staunton's slimy performance as Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies, but seeing her play a psychopathic queen was quite entertaining. Her insanity really stole the show and I feel she could be as good as Mrs. Tweety in "Chicken Run". If I did have one major problem with the movie, it's the American title. Elsewhere in the world (except for Australia and New Zealand I believe), the title of the film is pretty much accurate; "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!". Sony claims they changed the title since the book series the film was based on wasn't popular in North America, and that was a pretty silly mistake. I think this movie would actually help introduce the books to a wider audience, so changing it to a title as bland and boring as this was not a bright idea.
Though with all my problems with the title, "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" is still a fun movie to watch. The story is goofy and silly to its advantage, the animation is top notch once again, and the characters are extremely relatable in this film. It may not be as good as "Wallace and Gromit" or "Chicken Run", but I think it's still a good movie nonetheless.