By Rick Bentley
NORMAN — The gang at Aardman Animations, producers of the whimsical and wonderful “Wallace & Gromit” films, have turned to the high seas for their next animated tale, “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.” This tale of a pirate and his motley crew is the company’s most entertaining venture — without a Brit and his best buddy dog ... yet.
“Pirates! Band of Misfits” follows the effort of the Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) to finally win pirate of the year honors. He’s out of the running until he meets Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who notices the ship’s favorite parrot is actually a thought-to-be-extinct dodo. The buccaneer boss looks to use the bird to win a science prize and take the loot he gets to win the pirate prize.
From background scenes that are so detailed that there’s no way to appreciate them fully in one screening, to a funny script by Gideon Defoe based on his own novel, this film from directors Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt works on every level.
Even the voice casting — especially Grant as the Pirate Captain — is spot on. You may not at first recognize Grant, who brings a bravado to his voice that he normally doesn’t use. It’s a perfect selection that makes the Pirate Captain sound like a character from a Monty Python sketch.
All of the other voices — Jeremy Piven, Brian Blessed, Salma Hayek, etc. — are equally as interesting. They are made to sound even better by a bounty of funny jokes — many delivered by the actors and some hidden in the background by the animators. The film is that wonderful blend of smart writing that adults will love and outlandish sight gags that will keep young ones entertained.
The Aardman army is best known for the look of its clay animation films, and that’s where this effort shines. It’s not just the beautiful sets and clever character designs that are so impressive; it’s details that might be overlooked (such as real-looking water) where the studio’s glorious reputation proves the most deserved.
The film’s lone flaw is the 3-D. It’s better than most recent productions using the optical illusion, but it’s still not strong enough to warrant the additional cost. You’ll get your money’s worth with the regular 2-D format.
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is so good you should see it even if it means climbing over 16 men on a dead man’s chest. Yo-ho-go!