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Pirates in Callao
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by David Cornelius

"Yo ho ho and a bottle of ho-hum."
2 stars

It’s tough to complain about what the makers of “Pirates in Callao” have accomplished: the movie marks the arrival of computer animation in Peru. Without access to the sort of technology to which American audiences are accustomed, the filmmakers - a team of only fourteen animators - had to build everything from the ground up. Yes, the result is a decidedly cheap look, but compared to other low-budget CG cartoons, the clunky plastic visuals are actually not too shabby. So welcome to the modern animation age, Peru!

And now the bad news. As any cartoon buff is aware, it’s not the quality of the animation, but of the storytelling that makes or breaks a film. Adapted from the book “Piratas en el Callao” by Hernan Garrido Lecca (and originally released in South America under that title), the story is rough, dodgy, and not all together. It involves nine-year-old Alberto, who, while on a field trip to a colonial fort, falls through a hole in time and winds up in the 17th century, face to face with the Dutch pirate Jacques L’Hermite. There, he meets children who have also fallen through time, and they must team up to defeat the dastardly villain.

The movie relies heavily on knowledge of South American history, but in a fun way; this is something of a celebration of heritage, a kudos to the filmmakers for sticking to their local roots. But while an understanding of Peruvian history is not required to comprehend the plot, it certainly helps, and I can see many American kids getting lost along the way, even if the action and the slapstick are enough to keep them watching.

It also doesn’t help much that the story is fairly scatterbrained, bouncing from idea to idea with little sense of rhythm. The plot elements - rescue the villagers, stop the pirates, work together - are all something of a jumble, a sloppy stew not worth supper. Neither the action nor the comedy are as entertaining as they could be, especially in parts where the filmmakers strain for fun. (Generic slapstick abounds, and the whole thing ends with a loud dance party, a sure sign of kid movie desperation.)

Other elements just don’t translate well at all (what’s with the romantic interlude involving nine-year-olds?), and the whole thing simply runs out of steam far too early, which is notable considering the movie doesn’t even crack the eighty minute mark. As a first step forward for a burgeoning industry, it’s an admirable effort, but as memorable entertainment, there’s just not enough there.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17292&reviewer=392
originally posted: 03/06/08 08:43:44
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  DVD: 18-Mar-2008

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