Sometimes, in Aardman movies, the occasional thumbprint is visible on the plasticine figures; consider it a sign of authenticity and individuality. Directed by Peter Lord, Pirates is Aardman’s first claymation movie in 3D, and it’s based on a children’s book, not an original story — but the tale’s absurdity and creativity are pure Aardman.
Hugh Grant is his usual dry, witty self as the Pirate Captain, seeking some credibility for himself and his hapless crew by entering the Pirate of the Year contest. Somehow, Queen Victoria (herself a swashbuckling avenger) and Charles Darwin get involved. (Indeed, in England, the movie was released under the title The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! Here, however, marketers decided that scientists aren’t cool, and that the movie’s preoccupation with evolution might alienate a large swath of the American public that doesn’t believe in that bedrock principle of contemporary science.) The movie was overshadowed by 2012′s two other great stop-motion films, but like Grant’s captain, it won’t settle for being elbowed aside for long.