This Easter, I shall be hotfooting it to the multiplex to see the latest film from the ever-wonderful Aardman (or should that be Aaarrr-dman, sic) Animations which is called The Pirates – Band of Misfits (Trailer here). With an all star cast of voices including Hugh Grant as the Pirate Captain and Salma Hayek as Cutlass Liz, it will be brilliant, I’m sure.
The film is based upon the first two in a series of delightfully silly books by Gideon Defoe, who also wrote the screenplay. There are now four in the series, with a fifth due later this year. I always prefer to read the book(s) before seeing the movie when I can and just happen to have these ones waiting for me in the TBR, Aaarrr!
The first, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists was published in 2004, and concerns the scurvy crew of the unnamed ship being sent on a wild goose chase in search of gold by Black Bellamy, the Pirate Captain’s worst foe, and instead bumping into Charles Darwin, and Mister Bobo, his Man-Panzee – a trained monkey who has become more human than most men. Having sunk The Beagle, The pirates agree to go back to England with Darwin so he can show off Mister Bobo, and also search for Darwin’s missing brother Erasmus…
‘I should say we’d reach England by Tuesday or thereabouts, with a decent wind behind us. It would be a lot quicker than that if we could just sail straight there, but I was looking at the nautical charts, and it’s a good job I did, because it turns out there’s a dirty great sea-serpent right in the middle of the ocean! It has a horrible gaping maw and one of those scaly tails that looks like it could snap a boat clean in two. So I thought it best to sail around that.’
Fitzroy frowed. ‘I think they just draw those on maps to add a bit of decoration. It doesn’t actually mean there’s a sea-serpent there.’
The galley went rather quiet. A few of the pirate crew stared intently out of the portholes, embarrassed at their Captain’s mistake. But to everyone’s relief, instead of running somebody through, the Pirate Captain just narrowed his eyes thoughtfully.
‘That explains a lot,’ he said. ‘I suppose it ‘s also why we’ve never glimpsed that giant compass in the corner of the Atlantic. I have to say, I’m a little disappointed.’
Once back in England, the Pirates and Darwin go off hot-foot to London where they get into all kinds of trouble. Highlights include an encounter with the Elephant Man, and a brilliant chase through the Natural History Museum.
The Pirate Captain is very bad at remembering names, so there are running jokes aplenty with the names of his crew. Much is also made of the pirates’ obsession with eating ham, the quality of the Pirate Captain’s beard, and as the book’s blurb says, it “is one of the very few books to deal with the weighty issue of science v religion, whilst also featuring lots of roaring and running people through.”
I also loved that the inside covers are illustrated with wonderfully batty maps and the jokes continue in occasional footnotes and several appendices. This book was very silly indeed, and I chuckled all the way through – it was plunderful stuff, Aaarrr! (9.5/10)
The second, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Whaling, has had Whaling substituted for Moby Dick in the new paperback edition, (bit obvious, why didn’t they re-name scientists Darwin while they were at it?)
In this adventure the pirates get to travel across America to get the money to repay Cutlass Liz the loan for their new boat, and failing at Las Vegas, they join the hunt for Moby Dick.
Although there were some brilliant jokes and nice set pieces to the second adventure, reading it back to back with the first made it too much of a good thing, and not quite as sustainedly funny for me. The Appendix is brilliant though! I shall have a gap before embarking on reading the others in the series. (8.5/10)
Recommended for anyone who enjoys a good chuckle, and likes playing spot the joke.