**1/2 (out of four)
Typecasting doesn’t get much more obvious than when a star, in this case Salma Hayek, can’t even play a non-sexy role in an animated film. Not to mention a Burger King commercial.
In “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” Hayek voices the most seductive of the 19th century scoundrels aiming to win Pirate of the Year, a prize awarded to whoever collects the most booty. Since the film comes from Aardman Animation (the British studio behind “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” and last year’s “Arthur Christmas”), “Pirates” offers blissfully fewer innuendoes about “sparkling booty” than might be found in an American animated effort, or your average Kim Kardashian mall appearance.
However, this 3-D comedy also delivers more smiles than laughs and a fast-moving but underwhelming story that runs aground early. For 20-some years, the Pirate Captain’s (voiced by Hugh Grant) dreams of winning Pirate of the Year receive a beating from more accomplished brutes like Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), who conquers whales while the Pirate Captain misguidedly tries to plunder boats possessing only kids or ghosts. Once the Captain stumbles upon Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who’s equally concerned with scientific achievement and his lack of a girlfriend, the pirate learns that a few deceptions and moral compromises may be all it takes to net him the prize he so persistently desires.
The claymation visuals look fantastic, providing delight even when what’s happening on screen sags from a script (by first-time feature screenwriter Gideon Defoe) that saves too many of the best jokes for later. Nevertheless, as long as Johnny Depp and Disney insist on cranking out a constant stream of bloated, senseless “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, a movie about pirates that’s quick and painless counts as an improvement.
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