our flag means death
starring: rhys darby, scott fry, ewen bremner, and taika waititi
REVIEWER: lyall carter
The year is 1717. Wealthy landowner Stede Bonnet has a midlife crisis and decides to blow up his cushy life to become a pirate. It does not go well. Based on a true story.
In New Zealand Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby are comedy icons. From Flight of the Conchords to Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Darby’s sold out stand up shows, Waititi and Darby hold a very special place in Kiwi’s hearts. So when it was announced that they were reuniting for Our Flag Means Death a collective cheer rose across the land of the long white crowd. While Our Flag Means Death has a raft of enjoyable characters unfortunately it’s mirth filled, laugh out loud moments are few and far between.
From creator David Jenkins and executive producer Taika Waititi comes a unique new comedy (very) loosely based on the true adventures of 18th century would-be pirate, Stede Bonnet. After trading in the seemingly charmed life of a gentleman for one of a swashbuckling buccaneer, Stede becomes captain of the pirate ship Revenge. Struggling to earn the respect of his potentially mutinous crew, Stede’s fortunes change after a fateful run-in with the infamous Captain Blackbeard, history’s greatest pirate.
Aside from the lack of laughs, a lot of the issues that Our Flag Means Death has is a result of it’s confusing tone. It feels like it has several things that it wants to be from a raucous comedy to an introspective drama that delves into what it really is to be a man to a needed critique of colonialism. This results in the show haphazardly from Darby’s Bonnet wanting to be a new kind of gentleman pirate in one breath to being convinced in some form to kill because of an accidental death.
After seeing his comedy show live as well as his other film and TV work, Darby is a raucously, hilarious comedian. But it feels like he is completely restricted here by a largely unfunny script and a serious character unable to inject his fun, madcap, improv comedic sensibilities.
While Our Flag Means Death has a raft of enjoyable characters unfortunately it’s mirth filled, laugh out loud moments are few and far between.