Movies: The Pirates! Band of Misfits

I wouldn’t want to have spent money in order to see this movie, but as a free checkout from the library, The Pirates! Band of Misfits not a bad family movie. The story is kind of wacky (actually the whole movie is kind of wacky), but there is a lot of humor, and a message about being true to your friends and to who you are (though even this last bit is saved from undue moralizing by its humorous context).

Pirates aren’t usually role models for the values of friendship and personal integrity, but these aren’t exactly your typical bloodthirsty pirates. The Pirate Captain (that is his name, not just his title) claims to enjoy running people through, but his motivation for attacking other ships is to collect enough loot to win the Pirate of the Year award.

Unfortunately, the ships he attacks have no treasure – a plague ship, some students on a field trip, even a ghost ship. Then he boards the Beagle, and finds naturalist Charles Darwin (who appears to have no ideas about evolution, and is pining for the favor of some woman he is in love with). Darwin sets out to steal the Pirate Captain’s pet Polly, which Darwin says is a dodo, long thought to be extinct.

The idea of the pirates going to London and risking arrest and execution by pirate-hating Queen Victoria, so that the Pirate Captain can present Polly at a scientific exhibition and win Scientist of the Year (which Darwin assures him will bring untold riches) is an example of how far-fetched the storyline is. But the bits of humor that accompany each scene – a pirate tossing red dots into the water so that their route can appear on the map, their difficulties crossing the ocean because of the creatures drawn on the map, the pirates’ ability to suddenly appear in various (ridiculous) disguises, Darwin’s chimp manservant who “speaks” with cue cards, a chase scene involving a runaway bathtub and a great many flights of stairs – make up for it. The storyline is really just an excuse for all the rest of it.

After being – quite improbably – pardoned by Queen Victoria, the Pirate Captain has to choose between Polly and finally having enough loot to win Pirate of the Year. He chooses to win the coveted award – and in a bit of poetic justice, he is stripped of not only the award but his credentials as pirate when news gets out that he had been pardoned by the queen.

Having lost everything (including his crew), he finally begins to realize what is important in life. After some more crazy chase scenes and fighting (Darwin is now one of the good guys and Queen Victoria is the villain), the Pirate Captain is reunited with Polly and with his crew.

No doubt there’s a fair amount of the British humor (I guess I should say humour) that I missed. The review mentions Jane Austen – what scene was that? So that could explain why some viewers heap more praise on it than I do. Given a choice between a good book and this movie, I’d generally choose a good book. But it was something fun to do with my son, and an entertaining change of pace from serious stuff like working on taxes.

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