Pirate Captain(yes that's his name) played by Hugh Grant wants to be pirate of the year, but he's the least wanted and least threatening pirate around. He sets off on a series of adventures with his ragtag crew to prove his worth and learn what's really important about being a pirate.
First things first, this is beautifully and gorgeously animated. I'm a HUGE fan of stop-motion, and it's refreshing to see a feature films that still uses it. And make no mistake, the sets are handmade, the characters are hand animated, and it's all painstakingly amazing. It also integrates 3D (look at that water!) and even some funny hand drawn 2D animations when they travel by map. If you're an animator or in any way into animation this film is an instant MUST-SEE. Not to mention checking out the behind-the-scenes videos of how they built the sets and just how massive they are. It's one thing to watch a computer generated animation and know how much time that took, it's an entirely different feeling of watching something that was made by hand.
This has a surprisingly large cast of well known actors including Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman(for sherlock fans), David Tennant(for Dr. Who fans), Imeldia Staunton(for Harry Potter fans), Jeremy Pivon, Salma Hayek, Anton Yelchin, and Al Roker. Woo! Lots of people there. The great thing is the voice acting and animation is so great that you won't even notice the big names because they feel so in-tune with their characters. It doesn't feel like Hugh Grant playing Pirate Captain, it just feels like Pirate Captain.
And then there's the story, which for the longest time just feels like it's hopping around clinging to random events. This happens then this happens then this happens. It's silly but it's random and kind of drags. Not until halfway through the movie does it feel like it's really on track. It feels a bit all over the place and though I liked the animation, I wasn't really invested in it. There are a few sequences that don't really go anywhere and just serve to extend the movie. It gets better the further you go and when it does get going the movie is a ton of fun. I have to say the final act was surprisingly fulfilling.
The humor is very silly. It's not laugh-out loud funny, but there are some nice visual gag, clever puns and an overall silly atmosphere. Kids should love it. Really though, I just enjoyed the characters and the world they created. Even though I wasn't really into the story, I enjoyed the world and the people who populate it. The most interesting character for me was the "surprisingly curvaceous pirate" who's obviously a girl dressed as a guy. I kind of both love and hate that it's never explained why she does this. On the one hand, it makes the world fuller that this is her character and that's just how she is with no explanation. On the other hand, considering there's a woman pirate nominee for pirate of the year (so obviously there are lady pirates), it kind of doesn't make sense as to why she would hide her identity. In this, an explanation would have been nice. Does she feel she has to hide from her male shipmates or does she just wishes she was one of the guys?
Even though the animation is amazing, the 3D effect is barely noticeable. I tried really hard to notice it, but there were so many sequences in which I felt they should be in 3D but didn't feel like they were. Possibly they didn't make it 3D and the conversion wasn't great, but in any case the 3D did not feel worth it.
It's an amazing animation, but I wouldn't say it's an amazing movie. There's no doubt you should definitely see it, if for nothing else than to support stop-motion animation, but there's no way it will be a contender to a Pixar movie.
THE GOOD: animation is brilliant, stop-motion, 3D, and 2D, voice acting is great, the world and characters are all great, very silly
THE BAD: story drags in the beginning, 3D is not worth it
THE VERDICT: $$$$ definitely go see it, but not the movie that's going to bring back stop-motion.
MOVIES LIKE IT: Pirates of the Caribbean, Coraline, Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit
ONE SCENE METAPHOR: The Pirates enjoy ham night in an extended sequence and dance routine. It's fun and silly and adds to the characters, but really what's the point of it in the story?