Friday, April 27, 2012

Pirates! Band of Misfits [2012]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  Nell Minow (3 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Nell Minow's review -

Pirates! Band of Misfits (directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt, screenplay by Gideon DeFoe [IMDb] based his own book Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists the first of a series that he had written in the style of the famous British comedy franchises of Monty Python [IMDb] and Douglas Adams [IMDb]) is a silly enough animated film using clay figurines in the style of the directors' previous run-away success Chicken Run [2000] to entertain both the young and old.

Set in the 1830s in Victorian Era, Gideon DeFoe [IMDb] and the others involved in the project, take liberties with poking a lot of fun at Queen Victoria [IMDb] (voice by Imelda Staunton) herself, as well as of all people, Charles Darwin [IMDb] (voice by David Tennant).  The latter, the hapless/anti-heroic Pirate Captain (voice by Hugh Grant) and his similarly hapless/anti-heroic crew encounter when they attack his famous ship, the HMS Beagle, in hopes of finding booty, only to find the bookish Darwin, a lot of strange exotic animals and one "rather angry baboon" (you'll have to see the movie to find out why ... ;-).  The baboon aside from being "rather angry" turns out to not be all important to the story..., but the Pirate Captain's "big boned parrot" does.  Much ensues ...

As a teenager I loved most of Monty Python [IMDb] especially Monty Python and the Holy Grail [1975], Jabberwacky [1977] and Monty Python's Meaning of Life [1983].  As a college student, I read most of Douglas Adams [IMDb] Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, and liked the original BBC Hitchhikers' Guide [1981] television series (the subsequent Hitchhiker's Guide movie [2005] not so much).  More recently, I've actually enjoyed the Robert Downy Jr "reboot" movies regarding Sherlock Holmes [2009][2011].  Growing-up in a Czechoslovakian immigrant household, I also enjoyed the various stories about the fictitious Czech folk-hero/"academic" Jara Cimrman who also "lived" in that same era.  (I mention Cimrman because the scene in this movie where Darwin/the Pirate Captain present the Pirate Captain's parrot to the "august" gathering of scientists/academics of the Royal Society is something that any Czech Cimrman fan could appreciate ;-).

All this being true, and my betraying a more or less obvious predisposition to love a movie like this, the one thing that I didn't like about this film is its portrayal of Queen Victoria [IMDb] which I found over-the-top mean.

True, not a great many Irish-folk would have a lot of nice things to say about Victoria as the Great Potato Famine took place under her reign and the British monarchy did next to nothing.  I would imagine that the Indians/Pakistanis would probably not have many nice things to say about her time either as she presided over the height of the British Empire and took the title, among others of Empress of India.  Further, while the Victorian Era was noted for both its prudishness and hypocrisy. It has been said that even as "proper Englishmen didn't do such things" there were more prostitutes in London during the Victorian Era than at any other in London's history.  Obviously, there was a demand ...

Still true as all of this may have been, her era was one of a great flowering of both Sciences (again, Charles Darwin [IMDb], et al) and the Arts (Charles Dickens [IMDb-1][2], Oscar Wilde [IMDb-1][2], et al).  So I found the portrayal of the Queen in this film needlessly mean.

What to tell parents?  Like many "kids' movies" made these days, the movie has as much for adults as for kids.  Yes, the pirates are goofy enough to entertain the little ones, and yes there are enough allusions to historical people and events to both entertain the parents, and give them things to talk about with the kids afterwards.  Is it a spectacular movie?  No.  But it's not a bad one.

And all things considered, with the exception with going to town on beating up the Queen, it's better than a large number of nominally "kids' movies" released last year that had far more obvious (and unfunny) ideological axes to grind.  So if you haven't gone to the movies with the kids in a while, this would not be a bad one to go to ... Otherwise, you could wait for it to come out on video.

Finally, once again, with regards to 3D -- I saw the movie in 2D and it was just fine.  There's no reason to spend the extra $3-4/kid to see it in 3D.

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