And Jack Sparrow thought he was witty.
With the “Pirate of the Year” awards around the corner, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his crew of scallywags take to the high seas to find a bounty worthy of entering the awards. Instead they find a young Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who informs them that their beloved parrot is in fact a rare dodo, a discovery priceless in the scientific world.
This is the latest flick from Aardman Animation, aka the witty Brits from ‘Wallace & Gromit’, and ‘Chicken Run’, which means, in terms of comedy, this film has a whole lot to live up to. But when you touch something like pirates and try to make them goofy, it more or less just comes off as being another ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ flick, except in stop-motion form.
What I can say about this flick is that even though it’s not as hilarious as previous efforts done by this gang, the film still stands on its own two feet and made me laugh quite a number of times. The film brings out plenty of pop-culture references (such as a very memorable about ‘The Elephant Man’) but it doesn’t feel like overkill because these Brits have such great comedic timing. So many animated films, ever since the days of ‘Shrek’, have all tried to incorporate a bunch of dumb pop-culture jokes into their stories just for a quick joke but have usually come off as annoying and cheeky. Here, we get a good amount of that but it’s used in a way that seems like it’s actually moving the plot forward and keeping the laughs moving. Hell, we even get a funny montage played to the tune of “London Calling” by The Clash, which is always great to hear in any movie but it’s used to good effect here.
This is more of a film that centered towards little, American kids which means there is still plenty of fighting, action, and cool things for the kids to go “oooh” and “aaah” at. Since this is Aardman, you can pretty much expect that the stop-motion animation will be in top-shape, which it is, but the real bummer here was that they do sort of get away with using some CGI here as well. I know it sounds like something dumb to point out but these guys are the last things that stop-motion has left (unless Wes Anderson decides to give ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox Part 2′ a try) so I think it would be a huge shame if these guys just walked out on it now.
Also, with a comedy that is actually just about 86 minutes long, I was expecting a lot more of it to be filled with jokes and plenty of that dry British charm that we all love so nearly and dearly to our hearts. Instead, a lot of it starts to run dry by the last act where everything comes together in another, predictable fight where pretty much every character shows up to drop a funny line here and there. I don’t want to say that this bothered me completely, but if you have already seen the trailer as much as I have, I would like to let you know that a lot of the funny parts from this movie are already in there. So if you haven’t seen the trailer (and if you’ve been to the movies within the past month, it’s got to be pretty damn hard) don’t watch it and check this out because you’ll probably be laughing a lot more than I did.
It surprised me, but I couldn’t really tell right off the bat that it was Hugh Grant voicing The Pirate Captain here, but when I did notice it, I thought it was a great role for him considering this guy never does such a kiddie thing like this. Grant still sounds very Grant-ish with a whole bunch of nervous stammering as the usually, less-than-bright kind of character he usually plays in these flicks. I also have to say that it was pretty cool to see Grant not try to be all goofy as Captain here and try to do what Johnny Depp. Instead, he goes right back to the good old days when pirates were a bit goofy but still cool deep down inside.
There’s a whole bunch of other big British names like Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, and plenty more doing great jobs with their voices here even though Jeremy Piven seemed very miscast here as another pirate. His voice is so distinct and so deuchy that this character almost comes off as too serious and too obvious that it maybe didn’t clash well with this light tone that the film was giving off so much. In any other film though, Piven would have been fine to have.
Consensus: The British charm of these Aardman flicks may not be as strong here as it is with so many of their other flicks, but there is still a lot of fun, adventure, and dry humor to hold not only the kids over, but the parents who bring them to this film as well.