Aardman Animations has an almost uncanny sense of what makes something funny that I could watch an animated short of a phonebook made by then, and I would find something amusing about it. So imagine what the studio could do with a pirate story. Using their patented brand of stop-motion animation, the folks at Aardman (led by director and Aardman co-founder Peter Lord, who last helmed the phenomenal CHICKEN RUN) have assembled the spirited THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS about a bearded scamp known simply as Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant, who came out of acting retirement for this role), an optimistic and mostly decent fellow whose skill set may be lacking when it comes to being a truly nasty pirate.
He and his crew of also kind-of-nice blokes sail the seas looking for treasure, more often than not coming up empty-handed. The Pirate Captain's life's ambition is to win the Pirate of the Year Award, an honor that has eluded him due to the far superior pirating skills of Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek), both of whom mock PC openly at the awards ceremony every year.
THE PIRATES! never settles down, and that's a huge part of the fun of the whole film. It takes us from bringing Charles Darwin (voiced by David Tennant) on board along with his pet chimp to the doorstep of Queen Victoria herself (Imelda Staunton), both of whom seem particularly interested in PC's parrot. Other exceptional voice talents include Brendan Gleeson, Brian Blessed and Martin Freeman as PC's #2 in charge.
There are so many reasons to love THE PIRATES! but the primary one is that it just feels and looks like an Aardman movie. The sets are expansive and detailed; I guarantee you could see this film a second time and only pay attention to what's going on in the background in terms of production design, and it would feel like an entirely new movie.
The jokes and gags are fired at a rapid pace, and most of them are right on target. And lest you think that the film is simply a kids movie, there are jokes tucked away in here that only adults are going to understand, and the humor on both levels works beautifully. There isn't much more to say about THE PIRATES! except prepare to be overwhelmed with pure entertainment as only Aardman can provide.