Arrgh! A Pirate Story (2011) – By Josh Samford

Although I have only left behind being a teenager by a mere six years, things have changed considerably since my time as an angst filled youth. While the changes within me seem minimal, now I’m just an angst filled adult, the changes within this demographic have been considerable. While I was often considered a nerd for spending the majority of my afternoons sitting at the computer, now the concept of a teen staying off of the internet seems nigh impossible. While I was a youth Nickelodeon made all of their most considerable cultural influences through cartoons, now we have Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel pumping out mini-celebrities and pop-stars with the fervent speed of an industrial factory. Still, this strange combination of the Disney Channel “style” of comedy and the comedic absurdity born of the YouTube generation makes for a bizarre mixture that has become rather popular within recent years. The film we are discussing today, Arrgh! A Pirate Story, is a direct reflection of these two converging comedic styles. While it may not prove to be a film that is accessible for all audiences, it does reflect a very modern sense of humor.

Ted Wilson is an everyday teen. George Washington is a pirate. Together, they are a dynamic duo whose lives move by at an incredible speed. The duo decide that for fun they will start up a band which will include their best friend Peter as well as the off/on mortal enemy Wang. As rehearsals begin, Ted and George discover that they owe a whopping two-dollars and thirty-four cents to the IRS and have only eight weeks to get the money together. So, with the clock ticking by, this ragtag band must get their songs together in order to somehow make enough money to pay off the despicable Regis (who sounds like, but is not, Regis Philbin) and his IRS cronies.

Straight from the start, if you’re going to find any fault with Arrgh! A Pirate Story it is going to be the length. For a film that is generally based around a multitude of comedic shorts tied together by a very loose narrative, there’s no need for the movie to be almost two hours in length. There’s a reason most comedies are usually ninety minutes at their longest. The jokes need to be tight, delivered at a respectable speed and remain as focused as possible. Arrgh! certainly lacks in its focus, but makes up for it in its general absurdity. Borrowing heavily from various comedic styles, the movie rushes by despite its length. This is of course due to the fact that very little regard is shown towards the actual narrative structure of the film and instead our boys defy all rules of logic. Characters pop in and out of frame, switch positions on-screen and bounce around the movie like uncageed animals. The comedic ADD that is unleashed on the audience seems to fluctuate in terms of quality, but despite these things the movie remains very watchable throughout.

The project seems inspired by many varying factors. The quality of the acting is surprisingly accomplished from this young group, although most of the actors seem to ham it up for the camera. Overacting is still better than underacting, especially when dealing with a comedy. The cast all seem as if they just walked off the set of any Disney or Nickelodeon sitcom, as the majority of their dialogue seems to be delivered with an absurdly high level of enthusiasm. The film also makes use of Family Guy-esque cutaway gags that seem to come from very far out in left field. Mixed in with all of this is the general internet-absurdity that groups like The Lonely Island have made famous. Does it all work? Well, it will depend on the person. I think young people will find a lot in the movie to latch onto, but most older audiences will hope for more polish. Although there are several bits throughout that seem to hinge on the verge of brilliance, things can often become a bit muddled. For instance, I found myself dying on the floor laughing during the sequence where Ted, in a very monotone voice, describes his new concept for an orange cat who loves to eat named Garfelt. The scene, which has absolutely nothing to do with anything that came before it and very little afterward, is played to perfection by the young cast. However, as the joke runs on and Ted delves back into the same pot in order to explain his second idea, Scooby Does, the joke starts to run stale and the magic is lost to a degree.

This group shows a lot of talent with their first feature. Their comedic timing, their use of ideas and their general technical abilities all show a great deal of ability, but they haven’t quite put it all together as tight as it could possibly be. With such a talented and young cast though, they have nowhere to go but up. The group makes use of special FX throughout, have a keen understanding of narrative (despite their silliness) and know the sort of offbeat comedy that can catch on with audiences. I would definitely recommend it for those who think this might be right up their alley, but for those who take themselves too serious there’s no need to apply. You can see clips from the movie, as well as various other skits, via the troupe’s YouTube page at: http://www.youtube.com/papayaproductions and you can read more about the film itself via the official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Arrgh-A-Pirate-Story