Piracy and High Tea

The Pirate Captain (voiced by a wonderfully swaggering Hugh Grant) leads his merry men across the high seas, searching for gold, adventure…and ham? He’s never quite what we expect a career swashbuckler to be, and when the Captain sets his sights on the Pirate of the Year Award, we soon see that this criminal rogue is actually just a flawed softie with a chance at redemption. The underlying plot is surprisingly similar to the recent Despicable Me, but what sets The Pirates! Band of Misfits apart is a series of wacky twists involving a dateless, conniving scientist named Charles Darwin and a downright loopy Queen Victoria. The movie also overflows with subtle sight gags, little placards and such in the shadows just behind a character. My kids laughed hysterically along with me, and they didn’t even catch half the jokes, so this disc definitely merits a purchase for the sake of repeat viewings.

And as you freeze-frame to savor these details in the elaborate miniature sets, you’ll surely appreciate anew the razor-sharp focus in every 2.35:1 shot of Band of Misfits. Perfectly photographed one frame at a time—as is only possible with the stop-motion technique—the image offers an immediacy not possible in computer-animated fare, although some scenes are in fact enhanced with CGI touches. Even the out-of-focus backgrounds have an organic feel, while the colors can be truly breathtaking. The use of 3D is excellent as well, with a dramatic positioning of the characters relative to one another and to their varied environments.

The lively audio is a fine complement to the action, whether a hall full of pirates is heartily laughing or can- nons are booming and the projectiles are whizzing across the room. Fine nuances like tinkling debris and other discrete, offcamera cues fill out the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, along with clean echoes.

The Blu-ray 3D is supplemented only by trailers for other 3D titles, but the 2D Blu-ray Disc is adorned with audio commentary by director Peter Lord, a new tie-in short film produced to the same high standards as the main feature, plus three more shorts from Lord, one with its own commentary. We’re also given a set-top game, a look behind the scenes, and an analysis of the wild bathtub chase sequence. A DVD of the movie is bundled in, too, with an exclusive game and a DVD-ROM link to online goodies. A code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy is also included.

Blu-Ray 3D
Studio: Sony, 2012
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 88 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Peter Lord
Starring: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton