Few names fill me with as much joy as does Aardman. Sure, there are others like Pixar, which is incredibly consistent with their offerings and Disney, which used to be king of family entertainment, but is somewhat hit or miss lately. The thing about Aardman is they have this wonderfully wicked sense of whimsy that has always resonated perfectly with my sense of humor.
In The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Hugh Grant stars in his first animated role as the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain – a boundlessly enthusiastic, if somewhat less-than-successful, terror of the High Seas. With a rag-tag crew at his side (Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey, and Ashley Jensen), and seemingly blind to the impossible odds stacked against him, the Captain has one dream: to beat his bitter rivals Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) to the much coveted Pirate Of The Year Award. It’s a quest that takes our heroes from the shores of exotic Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London. Along the way they battle a diabolical queen (Imelda Staunton) and team up with a haplessly smitten young scientist (David Tennant), but never lose sight of what a pirate loves best: adventure!
That they’re still doing stop-motion clay animation in the age of CGI gives the sense that they’re just that much more devoted to their craft. A little extra love, you know? Stop for a moment and think about the kind of dedication it must take to create such perfectly crafted animations by hand, one single frame at a time.
Aardman creations have been consistently entertaining and The Pirates! Band of Misfits looks to be no exception. Whether it be the shorts Creature Comforts or Wallace & Gromit, or even the feature film Chicken Run, the attention to detail, love of their craft and that wicked sense of humor shine through.
While their first foray into CGI, Flushed Away, didn’t seem to find much success I found it to be every bit as entertaining as anything Aardman had done before. However, in a deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment they produced Arthur Christmas, their first 3D feature that I’m certain will become a holiday classic.
I guess my point in all these wanderings is that Aardman creates entertainment with heart. The Pirates! Band of Misfits retains that heart and that’s what makes it worth looking forward to.