The Pirates! Band Of Misfits - Blu-ray Review

'The final third goes stark-raving bonkers in bizarreness terms, whilst moving further and further away from Defoe's charm.'

Aardman Animation's Pirates! Band of Misfits builds a plot from two of Gideon Defoe's original novels (The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists and The Pirates! In An Adventure With Whaling) but somehow, despite plundering all this content, the film manages to leave the soul of Defoe's stories behind. Where Defoe injected his books with a risqué sense of humour and an irreverent grasp of the charm of randomness, Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt's film loses something in literary translation. Viewers may be left wondering why the film has such a fascination with ham. In the books, it was never in any question.

With Defoe on screenplay duties it remains odd that he fails to translate the fun of his work completely on to screen but his script too bears some of the brunt of Pirates! shortcomings. There is plenty of visual humour but not enough in the dialogue, whilst the weighty betrayal narrative, centreing on The Pirate Captain's (Hugh Grant) tiff with The Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman) over the boat's pet dodo, feels incredibly stock, with a predictable structure and outcome.

Not that it's all bad. Aardman's visuals continue to provide individualised delight when compared to the mass ranks of the CGI brigade. ParaNorman (out today) is a fellow stop-motion animation, yet Aardman's look is one that transcends their chosen medium. They have a purely individual style which brings familiar character and craft to their films, an irreplaceable IP in an increasingly crowded market.

The first two thirds of the film showcase these delights well as the pirates (sorry, The Pirates!) get into a selection of gently twisted scrapes, the girl guide/scientist disguise segment being the highlight.

The final third though goes stark-raving bonkers in bizarreness terms, whilst moving further and further away from Defoe's charm. It goes for spectacle over character and plot and it feels as un-Aardman as well, ham.

The marriage of the quirky The Pirates! novels and Aardman's unique animation style is less of a success than it should have been. The film is fun, but an undercurrent of clashing styles and a flat script leave the Captain's beard a touch bedraggled.

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