Directed by Peter Lord
Featuring the voices of Hugh Grant, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Martin Freeman, Lenny Henry, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen, Brian Blessed and Russell Tovey
Mixing CG and Claymation with some very british humour, The Pirates! is great fun and the step in the right direction for Aardman.
Previous Aardman films have either relied on Claymation (Chicken Run and Curse of the Wererabbit) or CG (Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas, but The Pirates! is the first to put both animation mediums to good use. Though the film still took five years to make, and retains everything that makes a claymation animation unique visually, the inclusion of CG backdrops and effects really push the film beyond the quaintness of stop motion and give it a more complete feel.
There is something very, very British about the whole thing, from the little visual touches of the Blue Peter badge worn by The Pirate with Gout (all the pirates in Pirate Captain’s crew have descriptive names, including Pirate Captain), to the cross-dressing female pirate, The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate. There is also something very classic British comedy, about the humour. There are visual jokes aimed at children, and Mr BoBo (image above), Darwin’s chimpanzee manservant, had my four year old laughing every time he was on screen. There was also dialogue and bawdy images which tickled the adults amongst the audience, me included, which were subtle enough to go over the heads of the young.
Though the film does begin to falter towards the middle, which is a problem with the running time, not the story its self, I really did enjoy The Pirates! The characters were funny, and each member of the crew had plenty of screen time and things to do. The Pirate Captain himself was fantastic, and quite rightly stole the show, though The Queen and Mr Bobo come close many times. Hugh Grant is completely unrecognisable as the voice of Pirate Captain, and is brilliant. I think he may have found his calling, to be honest. As a voice actor, he manages to create a complete package with the on-screen character.
The Pirates! is a great family film, full of fun and japes, though expect smaller children to lose interest at times. The action slows down in places, which might bore those with short attention spans.