"Action Hero" isn't a well-used moniker for the gentleman actor, but thanks to the animation wizards at Aardman, Hugh Grant has taken on his most crusading performance to date in The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists. Ok, maybe voicing the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain isn't that strenuous when you're in the comfortable confines of a sound booth, but it doesn't stop this film being one of the most rip-roaringly fun and exciting animations to date.
Now I've never been the biggest fans of animated capers; don't get me wrong, I can soberly belt out every Disney song going, and I do respect the genre for becoming rather sophisticated in it's entertaining engagement of both child and adult. The global success of Toy Story and Wall E are a testament to this, but it doesn't stop me feeling the need to have a child present to go to the cinema to see it rather than a gaggle of my 20-something mates (not a random kid obviously, that would be weird).
But see it I did and enjoy it I definitely did, as the Pirate Captain and his rag-tag crew made up of Pirate With Scarf (Martin Freeman), Pirate With Gout (Brendan Gleeson) Albino Pirate (Russell Tovey) and Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen) set sail on their latest adventure to pillage more booty than JLo's rear asset, in order to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award. I guess all that time moulding plasticine left little thought for character names.
But what pirate story would it be without the dastardly British trying to ruin all the fun? In this case the imperial antagonism comes from a rather psychotic Queen Victoria, voiced by Imelda Staunton, an actress who after taking on the roles of Dolores Umbridge and Mrs Lovett, seems to be making quite a sadistic name for herself!
Vicky isn't the only historical name to be given a pejorative spin, with the likes of Charles Darwin (David Tennant) thrown into the mix to cause even more monkey trouble for these poor, well-meaning high-seas bandits (not all watery outlaws are cut from the Somali cloth you know!) And as we're transported from the shores of exotic Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London and up to the clouds above, The Pirates! certainly takes us on an enthusiastically dim-witted but jovial narrative journey, highlighting the typical tenets of child-friendly drama: friendship, loyalty and fun.
Visually, the film was full of the slapstick humour championed by our dear little ones, but the script was definitely written 70/30 in the adult's favour; even the soundtrack boasted a medley of rock songs from generations past, not to mention a little nod to the quirky musical styling of the Flight of The Conchords track I'm Not Crying. Maybe the lyrics, ''I'm not weeping because you won't be here to hold my hand, for your information there's an inflammation in my tear gland', weren't a product of Gideon Defoe's pen, but it still shows how directors Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt are diversifying the genre with these kinds of niche comedy elements. The fact that FOTC co-writer Bret McKenzie recently won an Oscar for his work in The Muppets highlights just how much the kiddie landscape is evolving.
And although the voice talent features a few Hollywood names like Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven and Brian Blessed (only joking, Jeremy Piven isn't that Hollywood) they don't outshine Old Blightey's key contingent. But then you do wonder why pay A-List price tags for them at all?
The 3D was somewhat less-than-successful, and became detrimental to the impeccably detailed work of Nick Park and his stop-motion team. So it would seem the broken record continues to play out my vendetta against the cinematic formats' shallow attempt to add depth to the motion picture experience. In other words, stop making us pay extra for a headache.
But forsaking the 3D-induced motion sickness (2D options are available at most cinemas) and the awkwardly long title, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists is definitely worth dipping into your hidden treasure to see...
Child companion optional.
In Cinemas: Wednesday 28 March
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