The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (Peter Lord, 2012)

What's it about? The Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) has his heart set on winning the Pirate of the Year award. Trouble is, he and his oddball crew (including Albino Pirate, Pirate with Gout and Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate) are rather useless pirates. However, when they meet Charles Darwin (voiced by David Tennant), he points out that their ship parrot is actually a dodo, the scientific discovery of a lifetime and a possible ticket to untold treasures. Daft plasticine antics ensue. Aaaaarrrr!!!

Is it any good? Pirates are cool. Scientists are cool. I should know, I've been both in my time. Now they're together at last on the big screen, so this should be great? Well, by normal standards, yes. It's inventive, silly and consistently amusing throughout. But this is Aardman studios we're talking about here, and since they've set such high standards with Wallace & Gromit in particular, I confess I found this a little underwhelming. I feel a bit mean writing that, because there's a lot to like about The Pirates! There's some good comedy and the stop-motion animation is as impressive as ever, with the background detail littered with funny, throwaway gags. The chimp man-servant who provides his own subtitles is a delightfully mental addition and Grant in particular has great fun on voice duties. For all that, it lacks the charm and heart of Aardman's best work and all feels slightly rushed as the plot breathlessly barrels along (sometimes literally), presumably to hide the fact it's a bit of a slight story. Still, there's too much quality on show here for it to be a disappointment and nice to see someone finally give Lenny Henry some work. Aaaaarrrr!!!

I don't trust you. what do others think? Chalk up another success for Aardman as the film has been enthusiastically reviewed. Although Americans, notorious for their distrust of anything scientific, insisted on the title being changed to The Pirates! Band of Misfits! because US audiences feel more comfortable with misfits than scientists. Less impressed were leprosy sufferers, who complained about an 'insensitive' scene on a leper boat in the trailer. Aardman gallantly altered the scene before the film was released, although they politely declined when a leper offered to join the film crew and give them a hand. Yo-ho-ho! Cheap gag ahoy!

Anything else I should know? Based on a series of books by Gideon Defoe, which sees The Pirates tangle with whales, Romantics and Napolean, so expect a sequel if this proves a success. Of course, this sort of stop-motion stuff takes about 57 years to complete a feature film, so I wouldn't hold your breath. You can pass the time watching this featurette, showing the pain-staking work that went into making a film that I've just declared slightly underwhelming. I feel bad, now, I'm off to hide my shame with a bottle of grog.

What does the Fonz think? Fun, if slightly patchy. You could say it's Pieces of Great.

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