The Pirate Movie (1982)

the pirate movie poster 1982
2.0 Overall Score
Story: 2/10
Acting: 1/10
Visuals: 3/10


Movie for adults but targeted at kids or teens

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Pirate Movie

Studio:  Joseph Hamilton International Productions

Genre(s):  Musical/Comedy/Romance/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  August 6, 1982

MPAA Rating:  PG

the pirate movie tonight mabel singing kristy mcnichols

I love large phantom heads flying above me!

Mabel Stanley (Kristy McNichol) is an American on vacation in Australia.  When her sisters leave her behind and steal the sailing instructor (Christopher Atkins) who seems to like her, Mabel nearly drowns in her attempt to pursue them.  Mabel finds herself trapped in a musical world where pirate Frederic has fallen in love with her…but customs and her sisters mean that Mabel can never marry a pirate like Frederic.  As the Pirate King (Ted Hamilton) wages war against Mabel’s father Major-General Stanley (Bill Kerr), Mabel and Frederic must find a way to make their love real.

Directed by Ken Annakin, The Pirate Movie is a loose adaptation of the 1879 opera The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan.  The movie was released to critical panning and won Razzie Awards for Worst Director, Worst Original Song (“Pumpin’ and Blowin’”), and Worst Musical Score with nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Atkins), Worst Actress (McNichol), Worst Supporting Actor (Hamilton), Worst Screenplay, and Worst Original Song (“Happy Endings”).  The movie has gained cult status over the years.

The movie starts out with a bad beginning.  It was rushed into production to be a legitimate adaptation of The Pirates of Penzance which was released in 1983…this generally does bode well for a film.  The movie oddly has a lot of stuff it does right (at least to make it different), but it is an awful movie.

pirate movie 1982 star wars lightsaber ted hamilton christopher atkins

Don’t call me a low-rent Mark Hamill!

The story has a weird Wizard of Oz framework that doesn’t start out very realistic to begin with.  The “real world” is just as odd as the imaginary world that Mabel falls into, but the modernization of the story has references to Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and other modern movies.  The movie is mostly a bunch of comedy of errors and skits tied together with the romance and music…put weakly.  I do like the breaking of the fourth wall by Mabel in many scenes, but it also doesn’t happen enough to be balanced.

The cast is…ugh.  Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins were both kind of the “it” kids at the time, but they also were generally the second tiered “it” kids.  While McNichol is charming, the movie doesn’t help her much, and both actors struggle with the singing…which is a problem in a musical.  The leads don’t have much support from the rest of the cast who also isn’t that good.  The acting style might have worked on a stage, but here, it isn’t very strong.

the pirate movie pumpin and blowin animation christopher atkins

Pumpin’ and Blowin’!

The movie does have some interesting visuals.  It has nice locations (shot in Australia) and some big sets.  The actually shooting and style, however, isn’t very good and it often feels like you are wasting some great scenery…though I do like some of the self-aware movie throwbacks added to the movie.

The Pirate Movie is a “so bad it is good” type of movie.  You sit and watch it and wonder who thought it was a good idea.  It is something that might have flown on Netflix today, but I can’t imagine going to the theater to see this in 1982.  It is the kind of movie that you wonder who the target audience was with most of the good jokes being adult-based, but the plot and style of the movie being targeted at kids or teens.  The movie gained its audience through repeat play on HBO in the ’80s, but even in the world of remakes and “reimaginings”, I don’t see The Pirate Movie being updated…and that’s ok.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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