The first thing to realise about The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists! is that it is very silly.
Very silly indeed.
Indeed, its charm is that it’s very serious about being silly, not a minute goes by without some sort of sight gag, bad pun or just gigglesome detail being made (some for nary more than a fleeting glimpse) and eliciting either laughter or a groan. Despite this it manages to fit in a plot that is actually engaging from start to finish and sort of makes sense within the demented logic of the film, and it never feels as if it’s outstaying its welcome or becoming tiresome.
Kudos for this must go to Aardman. If Pixar are the most consistent studio working in Hollywood, then there’s an argument for Aardman being the most consistent in the UK. Sure, they don’t have quite the same prolific output, but there’s the same sense of love, care & attention being lavished on every frame. Technically it’s astounding, but that never gets in the way of the primary goal to tell a story, often in a very English manner. Despite the rapid fire gags, there’s a certain gentleness to it that is English, it pokes fun at everything, but never in a manner which is hurtful and more often than not the target is our sense of tradition. There’s the question about how some of the humour will translate in other countries, but even if every third or fourth joke is missed that won’t be a problem.
The voice casting is spot on, enhancing the personality of the characters rather than overwhelming it. Watching the credits (and stay for the credits, some of the more fleeting jokes are repeated so that you can actually read them) they read like a who’s who of British acting talent, the only American in the film I had to look up to see who they were afterwards. One of the best jokes in the film even revolves around said talent, pay attention early on for a clue.
Add to this monkeys using sign language (quite literally), a small smattering of steampunk and probably the least accurate portrayal of Queen Victoria and it’s all great fun from start to finish. If Aardman feel like producing more of the same I wouldn’t complain.