I am a big fan of animation, and I'm particularly taken with stop-motion animation. There's something wonderfully tactile about using physical puppets and models and photographing them, frame by frame. It must take extraordinary patience to create these films, and the inventiveness of the designs and the characters always impresses me. Probably the gold standard in stop motion is Aardman Animations, whose directors have given the world Morph, Chicken Run and the rightfully famous Wallace and Gromit series.
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! is their most recent feature film, following an abortive shift into CGI with Flushed Away (2006). The film follows the Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his crew of ham-obsessed scoundrels as they encounter Charles Darwin (David Tennant), go on the run from Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) with a pet dodo, and do their best to win the Captain the coveted Pirate of the Year Award. It's tremendously British, and tremendously silly, and those two factors in tandom help to make it simply tremendous.
There are several elements in this film that immediately stand out as crowd-pleasers; for example Charles Darwin has a monkey as a butler who communicates entirely with neatly typed flashcards. Personally I was most entertained by Ashley Jensen as the "Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate", who's clearly a woman wearing a knitted beard. It is, however, a film packed with jokes, cameos, odd little details in the set, and so on. The rewatchability is very high.
Despite the fairly chaotic pace and content, there's also a neat three-act structure here that doesn't always go in the direction you might expect while still hewing quite close to a pleasant story of learning to be yourself and caring for your friends and family more than fame and fortune. It's also boosted by a great soundtrack and score. It's also got a great role for Hugh Grant. I think this is the first time I've heard him perform a role as middle-aged. This makes sense: the guy's 53, and can't play the wobbly English fop forever.
In the USA, Australia and New Zealand the film was released under the title Pirates: Band of Misfits, which is not only a less intriguing title but also one that doesn't do as effective a job of selling the film's tone.