Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Pirates! Band of Misfits Pre-Screening Review

**possible spoilers** **nothing major**

One thing I have always enjoyed about really great animated films is clever writing. I like a good story yes, but I really want some witty humour that keeps not only my interest, but the interest of every child in attendance. I can happily say that Aardman Animations’ The Pirates! Band of Misfits filled the bill extremely well. Not only is this a fun family flick, but it has a fantastic cast including the brilliant and talented David Tennant! So fair warning there may be some squeeing and general adulation below ye scurvy mateys!

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend one of the first pre-screenings (if not the first) of Pirates! Band of Misfits and can honestly say I will be paying for a ticket when it opens to the public. Attending this screening was an opportunity that literally popped up just a few days earlier and since bringing a child between the ages of 7-12 was a requirement, I very quickly enlisted my Godson and BFF to go with me.  Yes, I very well may have “borrowed” a kid I didn't know just to go, but since I happen to have a Godson that adores Pirates of any kind and is the correct age, I thought this was a sounder approach. ;-) An extra bonus was taking my extremely British bred BFF. She loves Aardman films and introduced me to the likes of Wallace and Gromit years ago. (She also doesn't mind me squeeing loudly when I hear or see David Tennant on screen or Telly). In retrospect she is partially to blame for my love of all things British. It’s because of her that I grew up observing many British customs and traditions. I blame her for my love of British food (haven’t met a sausage roll I didn't like) and it’s her fault I know about and observe things like Boxing Day (still a mystery to most Americans). My education was very thorough and part of my studies included Aardman films. =)

So with some lovely companions in tow, we made our way to the cinema bright and early on a Saturday morning. We arrived about an hour and a half before the advised time of 10:15am and I was glad we did as a queue had already started. Thankfully we were the 2nd group in line and had a good position to get a great seat upon entering the theater. Security was pretty typical for this type of event. Wristbands were handed out once you were confirmed as being on the “list”. No phones or cameras were allowed of course and all bags were checked. Once seated we then proceeded to wait for what seemed like an eternity. After a small speech on what to expect (film not quite being complete) we sat back to enjoy the film. Our audience seemed quite excited, especially the kids and I’m happy to report everyone cheered when the opening title sequence started. To my delight it was more completed than I had expected and included the stars names such as Hugh Grant, Jeremy Piven, Martin Freeman and DAVID TENNANT! Yes, I cheered loudly! If memory serves me correctly DT received 3rd or 4th billing. I recall that it was pretty close to the top. =)

The main story centers around a Pirate Captain aptly named Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) and his band of sailors. Included in this bunch is his trustworthy first mate, Number Two and the ship’s mascot a very loveable parrot named Polly. We quickly discover that the Pirate Captain is planning to enter a contest for Pirate Captain of the Year. Of course this won’t be easy as there are several other Captains in the running who are all major forces to be reckoned with. However, the Pirate Captain has a crew who believes in him and is more than willing to go out onto the high seas and prove it to the world! Let the adventure begin!

Whilst on this piratey quest the Band of Pirates unexpectedly meets Charles Darwin, voiced by the multi-talented David Tennant. Charles is a lovesick scientist who is brilliant, clever and girlfriendless. However, he particularly fancy’s one very high profile lady. Desperate to be noticed by her, he searches for the next great scientific breakthrough which will endear him to his lady love. As fate would have it “Chuck’s” ship is boarded by The Pirate Captain and his life takes a very adventurous turn. Expect swashbuckling, sword-fighting, Pirate singing and Ham. That's all I'm saying.

Right, so let me take a few moments for some personal musings. First off hearing DT’s voice in the theater did to me what it always does…sets me off with a squee and a smile so big I resemble the Cheshire Cat. His character is so love sick and melancholy that you instantly want to hug him. Ok I understand that for most women with impeccable taste this is generally the case, but you get the idea. DT uses a proper English accent to voice Chuck, very reminiscent of John Smith from Human Nature/Family of Blood (for all you Doctor Who fans) and he really just breathes life into this character. One thing I always enjoy with David’s voice work is that he creates characters that you are immediately drawn to. Charles Darwin could have easily been played whiney and annoying, yet David makes him sweet and vulnerable. Chuck goes on quite a journey and makes some questionable choices along the way; so it was important to have an actor who could go from love sick boy to determined steeliness without going so far as to become unlikeable. Suffice it to say DT does this with incredible skill. I can well understand why Aardman cast him in the role. However, to be fair I must also give well deserved shout outs to Hugh Grant and Martin Freeman. Both gave great performances and created  memorable and fun characters. It’s definitely a strong cast boys and girls. Yea for us!

Now I don’t want to get too heavily into the plot or even what happens to Chuck because I really don’t want to ruin it for anyone. Let’s just say the writers have done a brilliant job of making you easily fall in love with and care about these characters. The story has a good heart and imparts some valuable messages. It’s completely chalk full of witty dialogue and banter that we have come to expect from quality animated films. I truly think both parents and kids will walk out satisfied. I mean who doesn’t like Pirates, right?

As for the animation all I can say is Wow! The people at Aardman do fantastic work and the texture and look of the ocean is enough to win an award alone in my opinion. I recall hearing DT say in an interview how the animators were the true stars of this film and I have to concur. When you realize what goes into the work and the sheer hours that are spent, it is truly amazing. The only thing I wasn’t pleased with was strictly design based and has nothing to do with the actual animation. It’s my own opinion and you may completely disagree with me upon seeing the film for yourselves, but I did not care for the look of Cutlass Liz (voiced by Selma Hayek). She is one of the few female pirate Captains and I believe we are supposed to think she is a hot, curvaceous girl pirate. Well she is curvaceous, but her looks were rather unflattering (face) and the character’s skin tone was very off in my opinion. She looked more yellowish than tanned. Perhaps this was intentional and I just didn’t get it, I really don’t know. Regardless this was just a personal observation on one character and not meant to detract from this truly wonderful piece of animated art. Overall I loved the entire film. Even the music was fun and perfectly suited to the story. I’m sure you’ll recognize at least some; if not all of the songs played. (Keep an ear out for a somber sounding song with quite hilarious lyrics).

The Pirates- Band of Misfits is sure to be a crowd pleaser. I can’t wait to see the polished product when it’s finally released. I’m so happy I was able to attend this screening. It enabled me to score cool Godmother points and I got to bask in the voice of David Tennant. As you can probably guess I would see any film for DT alone (because he is made of Awesome), but honestly this is a cool film. I highly recommend it and I’m sure if you squee loudly no one will mind all that much. I mean Pirates are rowdy and known to hoot and holler right? Arrrrgh!  =)

-Tiffany McQuay