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  Pirate Movie, The Exactly What Gilbert And Sullivan Would Have Wanted
Year: 1982
Director: Ken Annakin
Stars: Kristy McNichol, Christopher Atkins, Ted Hamilton, Bill Kerr, Maggie Kilpatrick, Garry McDonald, Chuck McKinney, Marc Colombani, Linda Nagle, Kate Ferguson, Rhonda Burchmore, Cathrine Lynch, John Alansu
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mabel (Kristy McNichol) is attending this demonstration for entertainment purposes all centred around the sort of business pirates used to get up to centuries before, but she's feeling selfconscious in her plaid shirt that she's not as glammed up as the other swimsuited and bikini'd girls admiring one of the entertainers (Christopher Atkins) who is dressed as a buccaneer. Nevertheless, he acts kindly towards her and invites her to help him show off his swordfighting skills, which doesn't go too well but he does invite her onto his boat later on...

Which was all very well, but not so good when the other girls push her off the boat as they embark, not that pirate boy was complicit, but it does set the plot in motion as the bulk of this did not take place in the present at all: it took place in her head as she almost drowns trying to follow, fearing her big chance has been blown, and is washed up on the beach unconscious. Thus begins the dream sequence which the rest of the film entails where Mabel imagines herself to be part of the classic operetta The Pirates of Penzance, except in the view of many of those who saw it, Gilbert and Sullivan got a jolly rogering from this production.

It's true that the writers revamped the songs and added their own, making this sound a hundred years more dated now than the originals ever did in 1982, and purists would balk at hearing, say, A Modern Major-General drop references to Bo Derek and Star Wars in his lyrics, but while the source was bastardised the results were oddly endearing to a proportion of the target audience. Hence the film's cult today among those who saw it way back when and found it appealed, and those who were not around at the time but are drawn to a prime slice of eighties cheese, all that in spite of the film's general reputation that it contained no redeeming features. But that's precisely what makes a following.

However small that following may be, it just has to be fervent, and if you were willing to give The Pirate Movie a chance you might - just might - find it amusing, even endearing in its cheery camp and outright poor artistic decisions. An Australian production, rumour had it this was rushed into completion in time to cash in on the popularity of a revival of the play on Broadway, as was another more faithful effort starring Kevin Kline which appeared a few short months after this sputtered and died at the box office thanks to bad reviews and public indifference. Whatever the reason, they seemed less interested in the material as getting a soundtrack album out of the rewritten songs, some better than others.

Of course, that was all relative to your threshhold for tinny but earnest pop from this decade, and both McNichol and Atkins got to try out their vocal abilities on those. As for the plot, it apparently got away from the filmmakers as it was vague to say the least, but essentially Mabel wished to get married to her new beau, escaped pirate Frederic (shirtless Atkins was that man), who wanted to settle down with her when the Pirate King (Ted Hamilton amusingly knowing in his only film, though he did a fair amount of TV work) demanded he rejoin his crew. Add in dancing policemen, a light saber, Inspector Clouseau (not authentic version), breaking the fourth wall gags and much winking silliness and mix to serve... a complete mess, to be honest. Really, although everyone seemed to be having a fine old time, The Pirate Movie was all over the place, undisciplined where its inspiration had been exacting and at best irreverent, at worst disrespectful. Naturally, that's why there are viewers who have so much fun with it, and even to outsiders you can sort of see that attraction, but my goodness what a stoopid movie.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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