The Pirates! High seas triumph from Aardman Animations
Mind-boggling visuals and Hugh Grant's comic timing make it a winner for adults and children
What you need to know
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, also known as The Pirates! Band of Misfits, is a 3D stop-motion animated film produced by Aardman Animations, the creators of Wallace & Gromit. Aardman founder Peter Lord co-directed the film with Jeff Newitt.
The film is based on the first two books from The Pirates! series by Gideon Defoe who also wrote the script. The story follows a crew of unsuccessful pirates who try to win the Pirate of the Year Award by teaming up with Charles Darwin to boost their scientific credentials.
Hugh Grant voices his first animation role as the swashbuckling but hapless Pirate Captain. His motley crew include Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey and Ashley Jensen. Jeremy Piven plays arch rival Black Bellamy, with sidekick, Cutlass Liz, voiced by Salma Hayek. Imelda Staunton is an evil Queen Victoria.
What the critics like
Aardman's swashbuckling tale of high jinks on the high seas is comic genius, says Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph. This is a richly detailed, mind-bogglingly clever piece of work, and Hugh Grant's Captain is voiced with immaculate comic timing. "It would take multiple viewings to drink it all in, but The Pirates! more than justifies it."
The Pirates! is a deliriously entertaining tale, says Tom Huddleston in Time Out. It's a "brilliant mish-mash of styles and genres, crammed with ideas and intelligence and carried off with a sense of rebellious fun and breathtaking invention". Kids will be enthralled by the action, slapstick and yo-ho-ho-ing while adults will love the intricate visual detail, sparkling wit. "Glorious."
This is another Aardman triumph, says Olly Richards in Empire. The story is daft and nonsensical but in a very clever way. The stop-motion animation suits the completely "unmodern sense of humour" and the screen is filled with jokes that "will make you chuckle for weeks". It's "a comedy treasure" that's far too good to be just for kids.
What they don't like
With Sony overseeing the project, there is a slightly slicker, Hollywood effect, says Stella Papamichael on Digital Spy. The absence of Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park is also subtly felt – "the attention to detail isn't quite as obsessive; the in-jokes not quite as sophisticated".
The Pirates! is congenial and unpretentious, but the storytelling could be tangier, says Siobhan Synnot in The Scotsman. It isn't a bad bet for kids. "Alas, it is being released in 3D, currently the film industry's preferred method of high seas robbery."
If there is a criticism to be made, says Olly Richards in Empire, it's that the story moves a bit too briskly. "There are times you'd like it to linger a bit more on some useless pirating or the excellent monkey with the flashcards."