Be sure to wear your thinking pirate’s hat when you go to see “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” because there are a lot of references to catch and the bits move very quickly!
I took all three kids to ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’ on Saturday night and three out of the four of us loved it. At age 5, Lilina missed a lot of the references (Why doesn’t she know who Charles Darwin is?) and was afraid during the fight sequences even though they weren’t violent. (There are a few pirates that are “run through” with swords but it’s not bloody or graphic.) (She also had to go to the bathroom three times during the movie – damn you extra-large Sprites!)
Now the third and the fifth-graders were totally on-board this pirate ship and laughed (almost a little too loudly) through the entire movie.
Created by the “Wallace and Gromit” and “Chicken Run” team (Aardman), ‘Pirates” is a vibrantly animated pirate world from the 1830s with absurdly hilarious situations and references.
Parents and some kids will appreciate references and homages to “The Life of Brian,” “Sherlock Holmes,” Charles Darwin, the theory of evolution, the Gourmet or Glutton society, “Blue Peter,” and the history of Queen Victoria’s reign.
Don’t worry there’s plenty of low-brow humor as well.
The basic plot is that the Pirate Captain wants to win the best pirate of the year award. There is some tough competition and he sets out to prove his ruthlessness as a plunderer. (His bad luck in plundering is one of the best sequences.) But then the movie takes an odd turn into science and history that I don’t want to ruin.
I think the kids were not only captivated by the humor but by the volume and detail of the Claymation animation. In a CGI world, it boggles their minds to think about these animators and cameramen painstakingly shooting each tiny movement of an eyebrow or monkey butler. (See I told you absurd!)
“Stop-motion is so labor intensive it took the filmmakers a full 18 months to film a key scene in a piratical pub. The gang’s trusty ship is so tangible it weighs 770 pounds and the Aardman team used 220,000 tiny props and 250 puppets to bring the world of circa 1837 buccaneers to life.”
We left the movie with lots of discussion about the theory of evolution and how long and through what methods they made the movie.
I found a blog from the film’s crew all about the animation and production. There are amazing photos showing the stages of work and funny descriptions from the crew of their tireless effort moving those clay pieces. They say they dropped a lot of eyebrows and they were hard to find on the floor. (The name of the blog “The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists” must have been the original title or the title they are using in England.)
From one of the Production manager, Richard ‘Beeky’ Beek, entries:
“As of today we are in week 72 of a 79 week shoot. OK. THAT’S LESS THAN 8 WEEKS TO COMPLETE PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY! This fact does make me quite nervous, almost to the point I’d like to lie down under my desk with a cold flannel on my face. Sadly this isn’t an option.
“To give a sense of the scale of the Pirates production, we have a crew of around 300 people, including 33 animator and 41 shooting units in 4 studios! To date we have shot 79 mins 47 seconds and 6 frames of the finished film, this equates to 1245 shots. Our current estimate is that we have about 15 mins / 250 shots before the end of the shoot. As fascinating as these production statistics are the most surprising thing is (and I’m about to curse it by saying it) that we are more or less, just about on schedule.”
My kids loved seeing this extra information about the production.
We did not to the 3D version although The L.A. Times reviewer said it worth the premium to see it in 3D. I thought it was perfectly lovely in 2D and didn’t really notice that many places where the 3D would have been obvious.
My family definitely recommends this movie and thinks it’s well worth your time and money. I even think preteens and teens would like it. I would probably leave the 5-year-olds (maybe 6-year olds too) at home.
Did you see “The Pirates!” opening weekend? What did you think? Would you recommend? Did you catch all the references? Did the kids? Did they love the animation? What did they want to discuss on the drive home?