There is something so very solid about stop motion films. These are real models filmed with actual cameras. Plastic, wood, paint, clay. Actual sets with lights. And what wonderful sets they build at Aardman Animation. The Pirates! A Band of Misfits has the best sets yet. I just wanted to freeze frame some shots to look over all the magnificent detail and texture.
“The Pirate Captain” was a likable fellow and his band of misfits were an interesting lot. They sail to port so the Captain can enter into the “Pirate of the Year” contest, where they meet some even more exciting pirate captains who clearly outclass the hero of the story. At this point it’s all very much fun. In an attempt to raise his game, the Captain starts attacking every ship he comes across, to little success. Then he captures the one and only Charles Darwin, and a whole new adventure begins. The Darwin character, however, had two problems. First, they took great liberties with a historic figure, so it felt a little odd. But more importantly, he just wasn’t a very strong character. Over the middle part of the movie, the energy started to wane. The story drifted a bit. By the time we got to the exciting finish, I was a bit out of it by then. However, I loved Mr. Bobo, the non speaking monkey sidekick of Darwin. That’s what I am all about.
UPDATE: The voiceless characters that Aardman does are some of my favorites in animation. But I have noticed that they all have the same deadpan expression. They are all descendants of Gromit. While I love that effect, it would be nice to see a silent character with a more mobile face, like Harpo Marx had.
I always enjoy the acting done in Aardman films. The shots aren’t rushed. They give time for small movement, and space between the words. There is time for them to appear awkward and uncertain. That is what tells me a character is thinking. It’s when we see the emotion. Also, the Aardman animators have a special touch with females. In this movie, and in “Flushed Away”, I was struck by the extra hip movement they give the women. It just looks right. Pixar hasn’t matched them in that area.
In my rating system, I say go see it in the theater at a convenient time. Or buy the blue-ray.