Pirate Cook of the Year
It's a pity that this one didn't quite make the cut for a local release, where its wit and comedy would have been much appreciated by the more adult crowd. But I guess it's Brit wit and brand of humour may not find substantial box office business, so the plans eventually got shelved, and primed for a straight to DVD release. Still, the work done here by the team from Aardman, responsible for plenty of quality stop motion animated shorts and films, is nothing to scoff at, and one will find plenty to laugh about, and laugh at, in this adventure of the high seas.
We're introduced to the Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant), a not-too-successful pirate with his riff raff band of merry men, with distinct physical and attitude quirks (such as pirate with scarf, albino pirate, etc), who have camaraderie to be proud about, since they don't have much booty to go around. And this is certainly the moral of the story so slyly written into the film, that it's never about the success or riches one has, or one tries hard to accumulate through means both legal and illegal, nor to gain fame and be admired by thousands, but the relationships, friendships and bonds forged between good people that actually and truly matter in life.
And to tell this tale, we see how the Pirate Captain gets obsessed with winning Pirate of the Year award, an annual congratulatory recognition that goes to the pirate that brings in the largest booty to the organization, with keen competition from more competent pirates such as Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek), almost demi-god like in their introductory scenes as they gatecrash the registration to demonstrate just how steep the competition is for the year. Resigned to having not likely make the cut and competition. the Pirate Captain hits a lucky break when he got mixed up with Charles Darwin (David Tennant), and the latter's quest to get the Pirate Captain's "parrot" into a prominent science fair, since the "parrot" is none other than from an endangered species and would win the largest prize to the victor of the fair.
The conflict of personal interests between Pirate Captain and Charles Darwin forms most part of the laughs as they do battle with each other to wrest control of the presentation from its build up, since one is clearly in it for the money, while the other is after fame and the chance for an audience with his crush, the current Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton). And there is more to the latter who becomes the de facto villain of the film, in addition to passing laws that require all pirates be put to death.
Pirate Captain's irreverent gang of misfit followers provide laughter that come thick and fast in their scenes, coupled with plenty of other sight gags that all add up to the charm of the various characters. And when I mean sight gags, you have to keep your eyes peeled at every corner, foreground and background for something funny that's bound to happen, especially when you least expect it. And like all Aardman products, you have to keep you ears peeled to the dialogues because that too is another major avenue for unbelivable humour. And yes, it ranges from the low to the high brow, so there's just about something for everyone to smile and laugh to.
With stop motion animation being done the non-traditional way using the computer rather than the rather tedious manual process, I suppose the dilemma here is that one's appreciation of the stop-motion technique may diminish a little because sweat-and-tears behind the scenes may not play a factor anymore into its charm. And what more, the computer may also simulate the little inconsistencies and chinks in the armour ubiquitous with the stop motion technique, that can now be recreated at a pixel level. But story remains king, so if the story's great, it really is not much of a deal what techniques got employed behind the scenes to bring a certain genre to life. That's my opinion anyway.