Whatever happened to Aardman – the happy bunch of geniuses who gave the world all those wonderful Wallace and Grommit shorts? “The Pirates…” is their latest claymation extravaganza. It’s beautifully executed. Quite frankly, the team at Aardman have reached such a perfection in style that it’s difficult to imagine anything better.
The problem is the story… and the humor. They suck. “The Pirates…” is full of frenzied action, but it never rises above a yawn. And the sharp, laugh out loud cleverness of the Wallace and Grommit wit has, well, walked the plank. Wallace and Grommit brought a delightfully silly, uniquely skewed point of view. It offered an uncompromisingly cultural kind of humor – one that you either got (in which case, you were a fan) or didn’t (in which case you saved your money for something else). Now that’s a pretty simple proposition.
Then Hollywood came a callin’ via Dreamworks, with whom they produced their last piece of movie magic (and their first full-length feature film), “Chicken Run”. Back in those days we were all prepared to root for Mel Gibson. This was before he revealed he was the Nazi’s version of a Hollywood Manchurian candidate. “Chicken…” was funny…made the kids laugh, kept the adults entertained…and for those of us old enough to know its provenance (“The Great Escape”), the fun was magnified. But then, after ‘creative differences’ lead to a divorce between Aardman and Dreamworks, they began to drift. First with “Flushed Away”… not too bad; still quirky; still reasonably funny; certainly visually stunning. After that, the humor was flushed away. “Pirates…” seems to me to represent a full, 100% sell-out by Aardman to the dictates of Hollywood. The result is a movie that has had any hint of quirkiness totally erased; all edge is gone; the appeal is to the four year olds in the audience, and I suspect even they wouldn’t be very pleased.
Even more disappointingly, the movie showed a huge lack of real imagination. There were scenes robbed from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and most of the Indiana Jones movies (without the nudge, nudge, wink, wink contextualization that would clue us in that it’s a pastiche they’re opting for). The director put so much effort into getting the sets right and the set-pieces flowing nicely that the qualities that made this style of animation great just went down with Davy Jones into his locker.
Spend yer money on something else, matie