Question: When is a pirate a lark?
Answer: When he's composed by the Aardman Animations production company and voiced by Hugh Grant.
When Grant is at his best - as he was in About a Boy (2002) - there's nobody in movies more charming.
In The Pirates! Band of Misfits, as the voice of the Pirate Captain, a somewhat dense pirate, Hugh Grant's exudes the character's addled charm. He is a sea chest of patter and banter.
The Pirate Captain haplessly plunders onward in a wayward quest to win the award as "Pirate of the Year." All he's garnered in the past is a trophy for "Best Anecdote about a Squid."
His loyal crew will follow him anywhere, and his beloved "parrot" Polly is his constant companion.
Polly becomes valuable. When the Pirate Captain is making Charles Darwin walk the plank - yes, we have to suspend our disbelief -, he learns Polly is "valuable." With the deceitful Darwin (voiced by David Tennant), he sails his ship to London to try to win a fortune at a science convention.
Darwin is one of an incongruous host of famed, historic figures that appear in the movie - Queen Victoria, Jane Austin, the Elephant Man, et al. It's a merry conglomerate of English lore.
When Polly becomes the hit of the science convention, Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton) wants to possess him for ultimately nefarious reasons.
The Pirate Captain and his crew face her wrath and the cruel derision of other pirates. They have to endure great danger.
The clever screenplay is by Gideon Defoe, adapted from his book. It even throws an occasional barbed line. The Pirate Captain admits his guilt for a few actions - "that time I used babies for squib bait." You won't hear a line like that in your average animated film.
The direction by Peter Lord of the stop-motion clay animation is spirited.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits deserves two doubloons up.
It shivered me funny bone.
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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