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After years of humiliation and failed attempts to win the coveted Pirate of the Year Award, Pirate Captain and his oddball crew take on the cream of the pirating crop - Black Bellamy, Peg Leg Hastings and Cutlass Liz - in a race to pillage the most booty. They soon cross paths with lovelorn scientist Charles Darwin, who persuades the Captain that the crew's prized 'parrot', Polly, could be the answer to the 'untold riches' they are searching for. Their adventure takes them to Victorian London where they meet Darwin's sidekick 'man-panzee' Mister Bobo, and the notorious pirate-hating Queen Victoria herself. It soon unfolds that Darwin's motives for helping the crew are not what they seem, and the Queen has an evil hidden agenda of her own. The Pirate Captain must choose between basking in the glory of being crowned Pirate of the Year, or staying faithful to his trusted crew. Written by
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Having loved Aardman's other work, especially Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts, Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep, I was much looking forward to The Pirates! And I found myself loving it. Apart from sagging slightly in the pace in the middle with a couple of scenes that could've done with more punch perhaps, it has all the attributes that made me love Aardman in the first place.
For instance, The Pirates! is a marvellous looking film, you could really tell that a lot of creativity and effort went into it. The colours and backgrounds are plentiful and rich with always something interesting to look at, and the character designs are appealing with the title character reminding of a youthful Wallace with hair and a beard. The 3D is one of the rare instances where it enhances the visuals and action rather than detract from it.
Theodore Shapiro's music is enough to rouse the spirit, and does very well conveying a sense of adventure. The songs featured are fun and memorable. I also loved the crispness and wit of the dialogue managing to appeal to children and adults alike, and the story is exciting with lots of charm and heart. The characters appeal because of their larger-than-life personalities, true the names are on the generic side(Pirate Captain, Pirate with gout) but that was probably the intention. I did enjoy seeing the likes of Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria as well, and they especially Queen Victoria added a lot to the film.
As for the vocal cast, the cast itself was one of the film's main attractions and the voice work is first rate. Hugh Grant shows impeccable comic timing, and Salma Hayak voices Cutlass Liz with lots of sass. Jeremy Piven shows that he can do wonderfully with a character that is strongly-written and provides a good contrast to Grant's Pirate Captain. Brendan Gleeson and Brian Blessed give rousing turns, David Tennant's Charles Darwin charms and Imelda Staunton voices Queen Victoria as if she were born to do it.
Overall, Aardman does it again, a wonderful family film that anybody could enjoy. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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