Front Row at the Movies
The Box Office
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
While I grew up on Errol Flynn swashbuckling it in “Captain Blood” and “The Sea Hawk,” today’s generation has been introduced to buccaneers by Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” a cinematic experience based on a Disneyland ride.
While “Captain Blood” and “The Sea Hawk” earned a little over $5 million in combined worldwide ticket sales, “The Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise has racked up nearly $1 billion.
Now everybody wants to jump on board. And in 3-D.
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is a stop-motion clay animation movie concocted by Aardman Studios, the creators of Wallace and Gromit. It’s currently plundering the seas (and the box office) at the Tropic Cinema.
Based on the first two books in Gideon Defoe’s “The Pirates!” series, it gives us the misadventures of a crew of amateur pirates led by an inept Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant). Originally titled “The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists,” the misfits encounter Charles Darwin (David Tennant), his trained chimpanzee Bobo, and a “parrot” named Polly. Seems they’ve been plundering ships in order to win the Pirate of the Year Award over their rivals, Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz (Jeremy Piven and Salma Hayek). But things aren’t going well.
Directed by Aardman Studios co-founder Peter Lord, this is his first Claymation film since 2005’s “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.” Back in 2000, Lord also gave us “Chicken Run,” a barnyard adventure voiced by Mel Gibson that used these same Claymation techniques.
While Aardman prefers the old-fashioned stop-motion approach to animation, new technology has been added. And not just Digital 3-D. “I must say that the new technology has made ‘Pirates!’ really liberating to make,” gushes Lord. “Easy to make because the fact that you can shoot a lot of green screen stuff, the fact that you can easily extend the sets with CG, the fact that you can put the sea in there and a beautiful wooden boat that, frankly, would never sail in a million years, you can take that and put it into a beautiful CG scene and believe it.”
Yeah, like I’m going to believe pirates named Peg-Leg Hastings, The Pirate with Gout, The Albino Pirate, The Pirate with a Scarf, and The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate. May as well hand over my booty at the box office without a struggle.