Reel Reviews

‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’

Audience:
A-II – adults and adolescents

 

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Hijinks on the high seas

We have it on the authority of Victorian librettist W.S. Gilbert that “it is a glorious thing/to be a pirate king.” If the rollicking 3-D animated comedy “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” (Columbia) is to be believed, being the captain of even a motley shipload of 19th-century buccaneers isn’t such a bad lot either.

That’s the role fate has assigned to the luxuriantly bearded central character in this historical fantasy, voiced by Hugh Grant.

Despite many failed attempts to do so, this warmhearted and enthusiastic – but not overly successful – plunderer still dreams of winning the accolade “Pirate of the Year.” His adventures in pursuit of that title eventually bring him into contact with humorously revisionist versions of both Charles Darwin (voice of David Tennant) and Queen Victoria (voice of Imelda Staunton). The former is shown to be shifty, the latter a shrew.

Fleeting elements of Gideon Defoe’s script – adapted from his book “The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists” – preclude recommendation for all. The dialogue, for instance, lapses into a bit of low-level vulgarity. And, in addition to a smattering of cartoonish violence and some perilous situations, the proceedings also find one character referring to a “scantily clad” woman and another jokingly admonishing his peers to “lock up your daughters.”

One of the Pirate Captain's numerous misadventures brings him briefly onboard a vessel populated by naturists, though a variety of strategically placed objects prevent us, of course, from glimpsing anything inappropriate. And one of his merry cohorts, whom he dimly characterizes as “surprisingly curvaceous,” turns out to be a woman disguised as a man.

Still, as helmed by director Peter Lord, this swashbuckling saga does teach viewers a good lesson about placing loyalty to friends above worldly ambition. Freighted with that respectable moral, it should make smooth sailing for teens and their seniors.

The film contains very mild action violence, a brief scene involving obscured nudity, a couple of crass terms and a few vaguely sexual references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested.

(By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service)

‘Chimpanzee’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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Simian stars fight for life

Despite some flaws, the endearing wildlife documentary “Chimpanzee” (Disneynature) offers an enjoyable expedition for moviegoers of just about every age.

Parents of the tiniest tots take note, however: Though morally suitable for all, the picture does involve a significant survival-of-the-fittest plot development that may prove too emotionally taxing for the most sensitive youngsters.

Set in the Ivory Coast’s lush Tai Forest, this fourth quality offering from the Disneynature outfit follows the fortunes of a young chimp named Oscar. In characteristically well-captured early scenes, frolicsome Oscar is watched over and cared for by his devoted mother, Isha. She nurtures him while also supplying implicit instruction in the skills he will eventually need to live on his own.

Oscar’s education is abruptly interrupted, however, when the extended clan with whom he and Isha live becomes caught up in a turf war with a rival band of simians. Though the conflict that ensues is dramatically engaging, its treatment represents one of the shortcomings that mar this otherwise polished project.

Sentimental from the start, co-directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield’s narrative – recorded, in mostly jaunty tones, by Tim Allen – now engages in shameless anthropomorphizing. The leader of Oscar’s tribe, dubbed Freddy by the filmmakers, is portrayed as heroic, while his chief opponent, on whom they impose the none-too-subtle moniker Scar, is demonized as the leader of an aggressive band of marauding warriors.

Since all the animals portrayed are acting on instinct as they pursue the never-ending struggle for optimal living conditions, such taking sides – however well it may serve to frame a story for humans – is hardly scientific.

Still, even the most levelheaded will find it hard not to sympathize with diminutive, cuddly Oscar as – sadly ill-equipped by his lack of experience – he faces the daunting consequences of the Darwinian clash by which he’s been impoverished. Nor will they fail to be touched by the unexpected turn of events that ultimately transforms Oscar’s adventure into a thoroughly upbeat one.

The film contains scenes of animal combat. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G – general audiences. All ages admitted.

(By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service)