When it comes to U.S. animation, Pixar Studios can do no wrong. In England, Aardman Animation can boast a similar percentage of success.
The people who brought us "Wallace and Gromit" hit the high seas with their latest, "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," an oddball parody of swashbucklers that delivers just enough chuckles to please the whole family.
Hugh Grant makes his animated debut as The Pirate Captain, a good-natured and enthusiastic leader who is almost completely inept at the things that real pirates do. Still, he is beloved to his motley crew and determined to wrest the Pirate of the Year honor away from his considerably more fierce rivals.
The captain's fortunes take an unexpected turn for the better when he loots the H.M.S. Beagle and captures Charles Darwin ("Dr. Who's" David Tennant), who concocts a plan that promises the captain fame and fortune in London.
Darwin's quirky loner, however, has ulterior motives — not to mention a creepy monkey servant named Mr. Bobo. The pirates will also have to overcome a villainous Queen Victoria (voiced delightfully by Imelda Staunton), who hates pirates and possesses mad ninja skills.
"Pirates!" may not be completely accurate historically.
Disappointingly, the film has reportedly been somewhat neutered for U.S. audiences. Not only were new voices (Al Roker!) dubbed over some British ones and the title changed from "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!" (Americans hate science), but a handful of jokes were toned down. One instance: "leper ship" is changed to "plague ship," which doesn't make any sense when considering the ensuing sight gag.
"Pirates!" features a typically dry British humor that might tickle parents more than their children, but there's also plenty of outright slapstick and silliness. It's not quite as appealing as the best of "Wallace and Gromit," but it's as good as "Chicken Run" and "Arthur Christmas," better than "Flushed Away."
It's certainly a better choice than re-watching any of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels.
Rental Recommendation: It's 60 years old, but Burt Lancaster's "Crimson Pirate" is still sort of fun. Grade: B
Email Steve Ouellette at: