Stop Motion Animation Brings 'Band Of Misfits' Alive

Stop motion animation, where physical objects are manipulated literally frame by frame to give the illusion of movement, is one of the oldest movie techniques, but it's being used in a brand new film called The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

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Now, stop motion animation - where physical objects are manipulated, frame by frame, to give the illusion of movement - is one of the oldest movie techniques. And it is still being used today, in a brand-new film called "The Pirates! Band of Misfits."

Film critic Kenneth Turan has our review.

KENNETH TURAN: It's not often noted in the history books, but Queen Victoria simply couldn't stand pirates. In fact, the words "I hate pirates" are prominently carved on the royal crest. You could look it up.

Well, actually, you can't - because the wacky folks at Britain's Aardman Animation made it all up as a key plot point of this clever piece of pirate business.


HUGH GRANT: (as Pirate Captain) I'm the Pirate Captain, and I'm here for your gold.

TURAN: Hero of the tale is Pirate Captain, wonderfully voiced by Hugh Grant - perhaps not the sharpest cutlass in the Caribbean but a cheerful sort much beloved by his men, and vice versa.


GRANT: (as Pirate Captain) Some of you are as ugly as a sea cucumber - you get away with it. Some of you are closer to being a chair or coat rack than a pirate. And some of you are just fish I've dressed up in a hat. But you're still the best crew a captain could wish for.

TURAN: The Pirate Captain has only one lack in his life: he's never won the coveted Pirate of the Year honors. And his confidence takes a body blow when he meets his main rivals.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (as charactor) Cutlass Liz!

SALMA HAYEK: (as Cutlass Liz) You're probably all wondering if I'm still as deadly as I am beautiful. Well, I am.

TURAN: The Captain throws himself into his work to fight depression, but hits a streak of bad luck - bad luck that gets worse when he captures a young scientist named Charles Darwin. That leads to a trip to London and all manner of craziness, including an encounter with Queen Victoria herself.

"Pirates" is directed by Peter Lord, who co-directed the gleeful "Chicken Run" a few years back. "Pirates" creates a sense of fun that feels handmade, rather than machine-manufactured. This film is so low tech that that scene where the captain meets his rivals took 18 months to film, but high tech enough to have used 3D in a way that enhances the experience. If we're living in a golden age of animation - and we are - the folks at Aardman are a key reason why.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.


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