The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! although an oddly long title, is a very neatly put together effort from Aardman. The plot involves ‘The Pirate Captain’ (Hugh Grant) and his attempt to become Pirate of the Year. Lacking the same natural pirating instincts as some of his more cut-throat counterparts, he is a bit of a laughing stock looking to win some respect. This comes in the form of a chance encounter with Charles Darwin (David Tennant) and an opportunity to win a scientist award with untold riches (hence … with scientists).
The humour is very much in keeping with classic Aardman so there are a lot of visual gags, but it does provide some good natured laughs. Some would argue though, that this kind of humour may feel a little outdated for a film aimed towards children with most jokes are aimed at an adult audience. The Pirate Captain himself I found to be very likeable, he plays the fool but not one without merit. He is funny is his arrogance, oblivious to how much his crew is helping his self confidence. It is hard not to route for the underdog.
The animation is meticulous with the character expressions all brimming with life, without any flaws. The fluidity of the motion and attention to detail is mind boggling. Bringing these characters to life is also helped by the fantastically cast voices. Hugh Grant does an exceptional job as the bumbling Pirate Captain, displaying comic timing and being able to imbue an emotional vulnerability to his character. Whilst Jeremy Piven is able to add the same cocky swagger of Ari Gold to the character Black Bellamy, the top dog of the pirate world.
The film’s pacing is rather let down towards the end dragging as it slows for a rather routine moral compass check, it is also let down slightly feeling as if it is one step too far. But the journey is thoroughly enjoyable.
Of Aardman’s recent releases this shows that they are still capable of pulling the punches.