The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists

The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

What's the best thing about watching pirates? Is it the cutlass duels? Is it the shanties? Is it the hammy performances? These particular pirates may not be the greatest at, well, pirating, but if you're ready to set sail for adventure, they're the crew to join.

Many a fan of Gideon Defoe's much loved (and some say satirical) pirate novels will have suppressed a shudder upon hearing that they were making their way to the screen. Shudder ye not, for this carefully crafted Aardman effort isn't simply out to plunder your loot. With a script by Defoe himself, it's surprisingly successful at capturing the characters and the thrill of the nautical hijinks on board their somewhat shaky ship. Hugh Grant may not quite have the glamour of the real Pirate Captain but he pays impressive tribute, creating an engaging hero whose vanity and slight rubbishness never stop us rooting for him to succeed.

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The success he has in mind relates to a competition he has several times entered unsuccessfully in the past: he dreams of winning the coveted title Pirate Of The Year. Awarded by the Pirate King (Brian Blessed, naturally), it is unfortunately also sought after by the likes of Jeremy Piven's sinister Black Bellamy and Salma Hayek's sultry but vicious Cutthroat Liz, both ostensibly more capable contenders. The Pirate Captain and his crew work very hard but just don't seem to have much luck in amassing treasure or making a name for themselves. Then, just when all seems to be lost, they happen on a scientific vessel called The Beagle, meet a chap who introduces himself as Charles Darwin, and find themselves facing the prospect of a trip to London that could see them make their fortunes - or meet a grisly end.

Newcomes to the pirate adventures may feel they are watching a sort of nautical Wallace & Grommit in which the cheese has been replaced by ham, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. This film benefits from the same attention to detail that made those a success, and which is very much in the spirit of the books. Despite the U certificate, however, it contains quite a bit of shouting, running through, and other things that would seem amiss in the English countryside. Even the villainous Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton, having the time of her life) proves more dangerous than you might expect.

The Pirates! offer that rare thing - a film that really does suit all ages. There are plenty of joke for the adults whilst small kids will love the naughtiness too often elided from stories aimed at them. Though the humour is very dark in places there's also slapstick fun and it's good-natured throughout.

On the strength of this, fans will look forward to Defoe's The Ponies! adaptations.

Reviewed on: 19 Mar 2012
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In his quest to become Pirate of the Year, the Pirate Captain leads his crew into peril and risks losing a treasured shipmate.
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Director: Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt

Writer: Gideon Defoe

Starring: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Brian Blessed, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek

Year: 2012

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK, US

Festivals:

EIFF 2015

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