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The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists

April 5, 2012

Eve sometimes says that I’m just a big kid sometimes. That doesn’t bother me – Kids get all the really cool stuff. After going to see this film, that opinion is now firmly cemented in her mind.


From the studio that brought us Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run, Pirates! revolves around the exploits of a rather amusing crew of pirates, headed by the Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant). The plot sees the pirates, accompanied by a young Charles Darwin (voiced by David Tennant) head to London to exhibit Polly, a dodo, to the Royal Society. The Pirate Captain hopes that the enormous cash prize will secure his bid for the Pirate of the Year award.

There is nothing original about the story. It’s an old one, a common one, and there isn’t much in the way of plot twists, none that couldn’t be guessed ahead of time anyway. However, this film succeeds in telling it in a charming and amusing fashion. The writing is filled with jokes and humour, and a surprising amount of innuendo for a children’s film. It also helps that the stop-motion characters are just so lively and fun to watch.

In addition to Grant and Tennant, the cast is filled with a host of British talent. Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson and Russell Tovey all take their place among the Pirate Captain’s most motley crew, Imelda Staunton plays an imperious and pirate-hating Queen Victoria, and Brian Blessed even makes an appearance as the King of the Pirates. Few films can boast of such a rosta and this one keenly avoid the mistake to cram them all onscreen. Each character is given their proper time.

The film is punctuated at times by modern music such as ‘London’s Calling’ by The Clash and ‘I’m Not Crying’ by Flight of the Conchords, usually during a montage scene. While always apt for the onscreen action, it did jar me a little from the 1830s.

This film is aimed at children but the humour was just as funny for (so-called) adults like myself. Children’s movies can run the risk of patronising their audience (and losing the interest of both adults and children). This film avoids that. The jokes are funny regardless of whether you’re eight or eighty. Indeed, several jokes revolve around the Pirate Captain inadvertently hinting at evolution to young Darwin, accessible only to those aware of his contribution to science.

In short, this is the perfect film for the Easter Holidays. Children will enjoy it, adults won’t mind going along with them, and students can sneak in and pretend their with their cousin or something. It’s not a particularly innovative or imaginative story but it is told in a fresh, entertaining way. Go and see it if your girlfriend worries that you’re a little too mature for your age.

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