It's an odd, curiosity shop of a ship, filled with things in breakable jars, easily beheadable stuffed animals, collapsing skeletons and far too many orangutan kidneys, presided over by a nebbishy scribbler. But if there's one thing Charles Darwin recognizes straight off, it's that Polly is no parrot. Darwin convinces his pirate captors to change course and instead enter the "Scientist of the Year Contest."
That's held in London, described by the Pirate Captain as "the most romantic city in the world" moments before they sail into a gigantic black cloud, where pirates hang in cages along the dim channel, crying, "Turn back! Turn back!" It seems the land and most of the waves are ruled by the easily unamused Queen Victoria. Her royal motto turns out not to be "Dieu et Mon Droit," but the less expansive, "I Hate Pirates!"
So the Pirate Captain and his trusty crew face some obstacles if they are going to win untold riches, not least because Mr. Darwin seems awfully eager to help. And what are they to make of Mr. Bobo, his tailcoat wearing, um, manservant? "Manpanzee" is Darwin's preferred term.
"I thought if you took a monkey, gave him a monocle and covered up his gigantic unsightly behind, then he would cease to be a monkey," Darwin explains matter-of-factly. His theories still need some work.
All these lines are delivered with happy precision by such expressive vocalists as David Tennant (Darwin), Martin Freeman (Pirate with a Scarf), Imelda Staunton (Queen Victoria) and even Al Roker (Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens). "The Pirates!" is a joy to hear as well as to watch.
When it comes to watching, this is one digital 3D movie where the technology is not treated as a special effect, but merely as a service to the overall effect. The characters and settings still have the eccentric individuality of Aardman's past successes. Most importantly, the results are positively tactile. Metal, ceramic, water, wood and even giant stone sculptures, all seem like the real thing.
And Polly? One can hope that she's the real thing, but one really should examine one's motives.
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits" deserves every exclamation point that it can make off with!