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Originally published Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 12:06 AM

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Movie review

Yo-ho-ho-ho: 'The Pirates!' will give you a good laugh

A review of "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," a hit stop-motion animated film from the blokes at Aardman ("Chicken Run," "Wallace and Gromit").

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3.5 stars

'The Pirates! Band of Misfits,' with the voices of Hugh Grant, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton, Martin Freeman, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Brian Blessed. Directed by Peter Lord, from a screenplay by Gideon Defoe, based on Defoe's book "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists." 87 minutes. Rated PG for mild action, rude humor and some language. Several theaters.

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From the stop-motion wizards at the British animation company Aardman ("Chicken Run," "Wallace and Gromit") comes "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," a jolly tale of ambition, science and dodos on the high seas.

The Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant), who apparently has no other name — others on his crew go by The Pirate with a Scarf and The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate — is a man obsessed with one goal: to win the Pirate of the Year contest. He's never won anything before, except for a long-ago prize for Best Anecdote About a Squid, and he's determined that his piratical exploits should earn him the big award. Since the year in question is 1837, some of the characters he encounters while pursuing this goal are Charles Darwin (David Tennant), Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), Jane Austen and somebody by the name of Damp Bernie, who does not figure in the plot but who has undoubtedly the best pirate moniker I've ever heard.

Along the way, we meet a lot of scientists, learn that pirates are masters of disguise (they can turn into Girl Scouts in the blink of an eye) and watch a frantic race down the many levels of a London town-house staircase in a bathtub. We note that the "best bit" of being a pirate is the weekly "Ham Night" onboard ship (in the sense of eating ham, not hamming it up, though I suppose they do the latter, too), and wonder why it took so long for someone to figure out that Grant's plummy tones perfectly suit a luxuriantly bearded pirate plagued by self-doubt.

Need I tell you that it's all good fun, that the animation is both expert and whimsical, and that kids and adults alike will be laughing throughout? My 7-year-old guest tugged my sleeve midway through the screening and whispered, "This is a good movie." I'll second that.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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