Making the Grades
Pirates, albeit clumsy amateurish ones, are the heroes in Aardman Animation’s film The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Like so many new recruits who find themselves at the bottom of the career ladder, The Pirate Captain (voice by Hugh Grant) and his crew (voices of Martin Freeman, Anton Yelchin, Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen and Al Roker) have aspirations to improve their status with their fellow plunderers. So despite years of dismal losses at the annual Pirate of the Year ceremony, the captain enters the competition again. And after being laughed out of the local watering hole, he and his crew vow to win the coveted skull trophy.
His chief rivals, Black Bellamy (voice by Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (voice by Salma Hayek) have already acquired a fair amount of booty—the essential element needed to be crowned the winner. In an effort to catch up with the other buccaneers, The Pirate Captain begins a disastrous ransacking rampage. Among the ships he attacks are a plague ship, a nudist ship and a scientific vessel occupied by Charles Darwin (voice by David Tennant).
Darwin isn’t the only historic figure to appear in the fictitious film. His socially awkward character is madly, but remotely, in love with Queen Victoria (voice by Imelda Staunton). When Darwin comes upon the crew’s mascot Polly, he’s positive he has found a scientific finding that will win the affections of the crabby, pirate-hating monarch. Meanwhile Darwin’s discovery about the sailors’ pet puts The Pirate Captain in the uncomfortable position of alienating his close-knit crew or suffering another crushing defeat at the marauders’ awards event.
For many audience members, The Pirates! Band of Misfits may be a film better suited for watching in the home theater—but not because the 3D animation doesn’t look spectacular on the big screen. Rather the filmmakers have paid arresting attention to the background elements that are as interesting as the main characters, yet difficult to fully appreciate in the pace of the action. Being able to pause and catch their full impact will likely add a whole new level of entertainment value.
However for parents that may understandably mistake this animation as kid friendly, approach this adventure with caution. Some of the violence is surprisingly vivid for young viewers including a couple of scenes where a sword and beheading axe are splattered with blood. Frequent fistfights, physical farce and weapon use are also depicted. As well, this romanticized portrayal of oceanic marauders is teeming with jokes that will swim over the heads of most children.
Although the Aardman studio has produced another visually impressive production, expecting these misfits to be suitable for everyone may be a whopper of a mistake.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Pirates - Band of Misfits.
Although this film romanticizes pirates, what are the realities of life on the ocean? How do the pirates amuse themselves between raids? What would living conditions have been like?
How does The Pirate Captain let his pride determine his decisions? In what ways do youth and adults give in to peer pressure as well?
What does the Queen’s dinner plans on her boat say about the impact of British colonization? Learn more about the life and extinction of the Dodo bird.