Band of Misfits
The genius of “The Hunger Games,”
the movie but especially the book, is that you care immediately about the
characters. Their humanity is what
endears them to us.
The problem with any animated feature is
that you’re one step removed from caring about humans:
you’re looking at cartoon characters with the voices of humans.
But in “The Pirates! Band of
Misfits” the stand-offishness is compounded by the fact that the characters
are mostly caricatures, and well, they have that British stiff-upper-lip kind
of dry humor that may work well when you have pretty faces to look at (think
of Hugh Grant in his romantic comedies with Julia Roberts).
But here, it all just seems kind of like a forced cute.
Like a beauty pageant for six-year-olds, and they’re in full make-up
and formal regalia. There’s just
nothing natural about it.
That famous “aw shucks” demeanor of
Hugh Grant, with that winsome crooked smile and that shy, almost-stuttering
kind of delivery is here completely absent. He
lends his voice to the Pirate Captain, and at least he’s the most complex
and interesting character, but giving up his visual appeal doesn’t work very
well for him. This Pirate Captain heads
up a very loyal crew who show him a lot of respect and deference, even though
he demonstrates a little too much cloying affection for his pet parrot, and
seems obsessed with winning the “Pirate of the Year” award at the annual
gathering of the rogues on Blood Island (presided over by an Elvis-caricature
“king of the pirates”).
, and Queen
(also a carping caricature) hates all Pirates, even though
enjoys virtual worldwide domination of the oceans.
She wants her Royal fleet to sink all the pirate ships.
Meanwhile, our intrepid Pirate Captain and his crew, seeking a hapless
cargo ship to plunder, happen to run across Charles Darwin, who immediately
recognizes the Pirate Captain’s pet parrot as a dodo bird, thought to be
long extinct. He wants to make a
scholarly presentation to the Royal Society of Scientists, but Pirate Captain
is much more interested in cashing in his prize for the booty that will make
him eligible for the coveted Pirate of the Year award.
(The peer recognition seems to be more important than the treasure
itself, and it’s no accident that the awards ceremony looks much like the
Will our fearless but conflicted Pirate
Captain sell his own pet for the sake of personal recognition?
And will his crew respect him in the morning?
Well, the animation itself is beautifully done, and the humor is
steadfastly tongue-in-cheek. So, it’s
a kind of a wry technical achievement that probably won’t offend anybody.
Too bad there’s neither heart nor soul.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,