Despite such fantastic efforts from Pixar and their clearly (and quite rightly so) inspired-by competitors, there will still be people out there that think any form of animation is just for small children. These individuals are missing out on some of the most fun that the world of cinema has to offer, especially as the folks at Aardman have done it again!
After the experiment of CGI with Flushed Away that regrettably didn't work out box office-wise, Aardman are back with what they do best - stop-motion. As per usual, they've brought that decidedly quirky sense of humour with them that made Wallace & Gromit the lovable famous duo that they are. Infact, you'd be forgiven for not drawing parllels between them and the two main leads here - Grant's equal parts bumbling yet endearing Pirate Captain is Wallace except with a luxuriant beard, and Freeman's put-upon, eye-rolling No 2 is Gromit except with a voice.
As with all their previous efforts, the screen - foreground and especially background - are filled with gags that would require multiple viewings to try and spot them all; names of streets and pirate pubs, blackboard menus, paintings and photographs, the list like the quantity of giggle-inducing puns seems endless. What IS different however this time round is the feeling that the target audience has shifted slightly. All successful Pixar and Aardman productions have been predominately family-fuelled with enough adult jokes to keep the accompanying maturer audience members more -than-satisfied during their running time. Here, The Pirates! feels like the balance has shifted as there are moments after moments for the older viewers to laugh-out-loud at (and explain to the younger ones in hushed whispers afterwards) and then there's a slap-stick moment for the kids (and childish adults) to spit their popcorn out at.
With all the visual japes (Indiana Jones' "travelling by map" has a new twist not unlike the recent The Muppets! did) and the wordplay wisecracks (Napoleon Blownapart) and the delightful dialogue (London - "It smells like Grandma...") you could be forgiven that the characters don't get that much of a look-in, and to a degree, you'd be right. There are so many great characters and only a handful make centre stage enough for you to feel that you've had time with them - the Pirate Captain, No 2 are glorious but some of the crew dutifully wait in the wings and are given, funny though they are, what feels like scraps to entertain the audience. The monkey butler with his own subtitle cards is a prime(mate) example here - he's hilarious but you just know he could have been used more to even greater affect. Now that is a criticism that every film maker wished they had levelled at them!
Right from the very first lovingly hand-crafted frame until the end credits, The Pirates! is a laugh-out-loud hoot that needs to have another outing - there are several books about The Pirate Captain already floating about - and soon! Go see and remember what it is to leave a cinema grinning from ear-to-ear. Arrrrr!
UK release date: 27.03.12