The strangest ship on the seas
I don’t expect much of the international film industry. There are approximately 250 films that make it to Australia’s shores each year and I’m on the lookout for just four – one for each of the school holiday breaks. As a father of three sons I’ve had to sit through children’s films where the popcorn was the only thing keeping them in their seats. But thankfully those clever animators at Aardman have helped me meet my quota just in time for Easter. No one will be jumping ship when it comes time to see The Pirates: Band Of Misfits.
Hugh Grant takes on his first animated role as the aptly named Pirate Captain, the commander of the leakiest sieve ever to set sail on the seven seas. His crew is a collection of pirating outcasts – buccaneers with more wooden legs than a furniture shop, women wearing fake beards, even a fish dressed up in a hat. It is no surprise that their annual plunder amounts to less than the spare change most people would find in the back of the car. But every year our eternally optimistic hero nurses the ambition of being awarded the ‘Pirate Captain of the Year’ – a trophy that goes to the brigand with the most booty. Usually he wouldn’t stand a chance against shoe-ins like Black Bellamy or Cutlass Liz, but a chance encounter with Charles Darwin reveals that his crew’s beloved parrot is actually the last known living dodo. Will Pirate Captain sell the heart of his shipmates to the Royal Zoo for a boatload of treasure and the chance to be popular?
The road to success
Like the Aardman classics that came before – Chicken Run, Wallace & Grommit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit; Arthur Christmas – this film is full to bursting with moments that will amuse parents and their progeny alike. A personal favourite is David Tennant’s Charles Darwin who’s just classified another hitherto unknown species of barnacle, but would give it all for a kind word from the woman of his dreams, Queen Victoria. “I just want one tiny bit of success,” he mutters, knowing how much closer it might take him to the throne. “Is that a crime? But you try telling that to the universe…”
And the road to success leads the viewer to the spiritual content of the film. Director Peter Lord, the co-founder of Aardman who helmed Chicken Run says Pirate Captain is a strangely familiar character who is looking for love and respect in all the wrong places. “None of that matters to his crew – they’re like his family, very loyal and loving and trusting – if a little foolish,” Lord says. “But when he goes off chasing this flashy prize, he risks losing what is most dear to him.”
The need to be accepted and appreciated is so basic a requirement for human beings that I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t worked its way into a United Nations charter. However long before stop-animation was dreamt of Jesus was warning his audience that what we’d best beware what we sacrificed to gain that sense of security. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world,” he told his disciples, “but loses his soul?” In fact even family and friends won’t be enough to save us if they come before the One who provides us our ultimate sense of belonging. Elsewhere Jesus pronounced his own remedy for insecurity: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness,” he said, identifying the primary treasure, “and all these things will be added unto you.”
Watching The Pirates with your kids
The average primary school student is introduced to the ideas of trophies from almost their first day at school – smiley stamps for good work give way to stickers for good behaviour, ribbons for sporting prowess and medals for victories. Later in life we’re still collecting trophies, but of a different sort: company cars, private offices, stainless steel kitchens and plush lounge rooms. Help your kids focus on what will really make them feel valued:
- Why did Pirate Captain want to get the Pirate of The Year trophy?
- What really made him feel good about himself?
- Which relationships make you feel safest – which people give you feel most valued?
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