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Misfit pirates take the big screen

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A review of Sony Pictures Animation's 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'

By Becca Owsley

In “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” a shipload of crazy pirates are on a mission for their captain, aptly named Pirate Captain, to win the Pirate of the Year Award. Along the way they have a hard time acquiring enough treasure for him to win until they meet a conniving scientist, Charles Darwin, who tricks them into thinking they will win treasure.

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Think “The Office” on the high seas and you might have a good idea of this crew.

While many of the backgrounds for the film are computer generated, for the most part the visuals in this movie are claymation. Claymation uses stop motion animation, meaning characters and other elements are made of clay and moved, ever so slightly, frame by frame, to give the illusion of animation when shown on screen.

Needless to say, it’s rarely used in animation but is a creative-looking process.

The movie is directed by Peter Lord, who also brought the clay characters of “Chicken Run” and the duo Wallace and Gromit to life. 

The film has a few intellectual jokes hidden in the dialogue. There are references to people and events of Victorian times that will pull in historical humor for adults and kids might not know why we’re laughing.

There also are a couple things parents might want to know about before viewing the film. There are moments of bad language. The language flies by quickly, but if that’s something you want your kids to avoid, you should know it’s in there.

The characters also are pirates, so they do pirate things like fight, drink and plunder.

The best part about the film is the voice-acting. An animated film might be the only way Hugh Grant (“Did You Hear About the Morgans?”) will ever be able to pull off being a pirate as he voices Pirate Captain.

His number two, The Pirate with a Scarf, is voiced by Martin Freeman who appears as Watson on BBC’s “Sherlock” and soon will appear as Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”

The scheming scientist Charles Darwin is voiced by the tenth Doctor in BBC’s “Doctor Who,” David Tennant.

All the voice actors suited their characters. Other voices include Imelda Staunton (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”), Jeremy Piven (TV’s “Entourage”), Salma Hayek (“Puss in Boots”), Brian Blessed (“Alexander”), Brendan Gleeson (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”) and “Today” show weatherman Al Roker.

The names of the pirates also are entertaining and add to the misfit title. It’s as if all the pirate names had run out and this crew got what was left. Pirate with Gout, The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate and The Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens are just a few examples.

Even with talented voices and artistry in the animation, the film is lacking. It is funny in parts and seemed to hold the attention of children in a recent screening. It’s just not spectacular. There isn’t another animated film in theaters until “Madagascar 3” and “Brave” in June.

It does, however, have a smashing soundtrack.

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741. For movie reviews visit her reporter page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Becca-Owsley/96924584861.

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