Pete Winning and the Pirates: The Motion Picture


By: Addison Wylie

UPDATE: This review was written for the film’s premiere in December 2015.  Pete Winning and the Pirates: The Motion Picture hits Amazon Prime and DVD on Tuesday, January 23, 2018.

Pete Winning and the Pirates: The Motion Picture receives its Canadian premiere at Toronto’s The Royal Cinema on December 4th.  After that, I’m not too sure what the plans are for its open release.  I’m hoping it’ll be easy to seek out because, like lost pieces of an important map, it’s worth searching for.

Filmmakers Navin Ramaswaran (Late Night Double Feature), Jason Leaver (Out with Dad), and Pete Winning himself Mike Donis have raised the stakes by taking their web series featuring a crackshot rogue and extending the story to a feature-length format.  The film does a commendable job at sustaining the longer duration by offering lots of entertainment and enjoyable leads.  The only prerequisite the film asks of newcomers is for them to understand the types of characters Donis and the rest of the cast are portraying.  However, it’s very easy to catch on since the film uses a common adventure formula, including hero templates that are timeless favourites.  The added creativity within the characterization and weaponry is what gives Pete Winning and the Pirates its offbeat singularity.

Donis continues his hot streak of portraying Winning, and manages to stay within the character’s continuity for the film.  Like the actual filmmaking, Donis is able to use memorable swashbucklers as inspiration, and issues his own take on a charming personality to make the role his own.  Pete’s crew is filled out by heroine Eva (played by Saffron Cassaday) and the tipsy Remy (played by Robert Nolan).  Sandra DaCosta and Shawn Devlin play helpful acquaintances named Jane and Finch, a gag that will have Torontonians smirking.

One of my favourite things about the screenplay (written by Mike Donis and James Christopher) is how our heroes have to bond with their foes;  which happens often as a strategic move for the characters to gain unlikely trust and leverage.  It’s a clever move that fleshes out relationships. Even when Eva, Pete and Remy are split up (a decision that could be detrimental to a film), everyone still feels connected.  An amusingly strange team-up between our protagonists and the crazy One Eyed Bill (played by an enthusiastic Ash Catherwood) is always fun to watch.

Pete Winning and the Pirates: The Motion Picture is able to distract us away from life, but it seems as if the production had a hard time maintaining a new visual identity.  Much of the action – while exciting – feels shrunken;  suggesting to me that the filmmakers didn’t figure out how to transition their modest show to a larger stage.  To fulfil moviegoing expectations, the directors needed to move their equipment further back and utilize more wide shots.  The choreography wouldn’t have appeared so crammed, and their shot list would’ve accepted more spacious stunts (including elaborate steps during a final duel).

Pete Winning and the Pirates: The Motion Picture doesn’t entirely wrap up Winning’s mission, and opens another door for ole’ Pete.  Whether the filmmakers decide to make another movie or return to a web series format, I can’t wait to continue this journey.

Pete Winning and the Pirates: The Motion Picture receives its Canadian premiere at Toronto’s The Royal Cinema on December 4th at 9:00 pm. Click here to purchase tickets, and here to RSVP via Facebook.


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