The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
Director: Peter Lord.
Cast: (voices of) Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Russell Tovey, Brendan Gleeson, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Lenny Henry.
THERE used to be such a thing as "the curse of the pirate movie" - any time Hollywood tried to buckle its swash, it sank like a stone at the box office (Roman Polanki's Pirates and Cutthroat Island for example).
That was until Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow made one of cinema's greatest entrances, blowing the curse out of the water with four mega-selling films (that are all rubbish except for the first one).
Now Aardman Animation, the boffins behind Wallace & Gromit, have taken to the seven seas with their painstakingly stop-animated film The Pirates! Band Of Misfits.
It's the salty saga of The Pirate Captain, who dreams of winning the Pirate Of The Year competition, but he and his devoted crew have been striking out when it comes to booty collecting.
That's until they meet Charles Darwin, who suggests they may be able to claim a huge amount of treasure from England's scientific community thanks to the fact The Pirate Captain's parrot is in fact the last-remaining dodo. All that stands in their way is getting past the watchful eye of the pirate-hating Queen Victoria.
A rough adaptation of Gideon Defoe's children's books, The Pirates! revels in its distinctly British sense of humour, which includes some great absurd jokes, plus background visual gags at every turn (most of them are re-run during the credits because you won't be able to catch them all).
Maybe it could have been funnier, but it's enjoyable, ideal for children of all ages and definitely adult-friendly - the kids may not get the references to evolution or The Elephant Man, but mum and dad will.
The animation is great, blending the claymation styling of Aardman's Wallace & Gromit with a handful of CG flourishes from their experience with Arthur Christmas and Flushed Away. Also first class is the voice acting. Grant's voice is almost unrecognisable yet brilliant as The Pirate Captain - perversely, it may be the best performance of his career.
The Pirates! does feel a tad slight, but as with Arthur Christmas, Aardman have hit on a pleasant winner that appeals to all ages.
Also, it's hard to fault a kids film that features The Pogues, The Clash, Flight Of The Conchords and Supergrass in the soundtrack.