1. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists
Year after year, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) tries and fails to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award. Every year without fail he attempts to measure up to the greatest of the great, like Black Bellamy, Peg Leg Hastings and Cutlass Liz, in a race to plunder the most booty.
This year things might just be different when Pirate Captain and his crew run into a scientist by the name of Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Darwin convinces Pirate Captain that the ship’s parrot Polly (who is actually a Dodo) could be the key to the boundless riches that will secure him the crown of Pirate of the Year that he so desperately craves.
The Pirates embark on an adventure that takes them to Victorian London. They cross swords with Queen Victoria, who has an exceptional distaste for pirates and an evil plan to boot. Unsurprisingly, Darwin’s motives for helping the gang are not entirely benevolent either. He just wants to get his hands on Polly for the sake of his own reputation. Pirate Captain faces a bit of a tough dilemma. Should he finally win the acclaim of his fellow pirates he so desperately craves, or should he remain loyal to his crew (and Polly)?
I’m pretty certain that given the choice most people would go for Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit as their top pick of the Aardman films, but I just love The Pirates: In an Adventure with Scientists. As far as I’m concerned this is one of Hugh Grant’s best performances. I can’t really say why. He’s pretty much just Hugh Grant, but for some reason I find him utterly hilarious. It perhaps doesn’t have the same broad appeal as Wallace and Gromit, but I found the characters to be really endearing, the adventure to be good fun, and there to be an endless stream of laughs. I still find it funny to this day that Hugh Grant’s character is literally called Pirate Captain. It’s not a particularly clever joke, but it really appeals to me.
My biggest disappointment with the film was that we never got a sequel. I would love to spend more time with Pirate Captain, Polly and the crew, but it looks like that ship has sailed. Still, we’ll always have Charles Darwin. If you’ve never been lucky enough to see it I definitely recommend tracking it down. It’s a stop-motion delight.
Oli has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. He has a PhD in Computer Science and he writes articles about TV, film and, very occasionally, science.