“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” opens in London, 1837. Admiral Collingwood is giving a report to Queen Victoria, declaring that the British Navy rules the seas, other than one small spot in the West Indies. Unfortunately, that area is still populated by pirates. Queen Victoria is furious she absolutely loathes pirates, and she demands that they be wiped out immediately.
Cut to a pirate ship where the crew is arguing over the best thing about being a pirate is it cutlasses or booty? The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) interrupts the best thing about being a pirate is Ham Night! The Pirate Captain slices up the ham, as all the pirates cheer. They obviously adore their captain, almost as much as they adore their ship’s mascot, Polly the Parrot.
The crew is sailing to Blood Island so The Pirate Captain can enter for the Pirate of the Year award. He’s entered for the last 20 years, but never won. This year he is sure his bag of booty will snag the award. Just as he is about to turn in his entry form, Peg-Leg Hastings bursts in with a much larger bag of booty. He is followed by Cutlass Liz with the world’s biggest diamond, and finally Black Bellamy smashes through the wall on a giant whale, with the most massive treasure of all. It appears that The Pirate Captain has no chance of winning the award, and he quickly feeds his entry form to Polly the Parrot.
The Pirate Captain is about to sneak back to his ship when Black Bellamy starts laughing and mocking The Pirate Captain’s ancient ship. At that moment, Polly coughs up the entry form and the whole bar erupts in laughter. Stubbornly, The Pirate Captain hands in his spit-covered entry form.
The Pirate Captain and his crew head out on the open seas to try to increase their booty, but the first ship they come across is a plague ship, then a geography field trip, then a nudist colony, and finally a ghost ship. No one seems to have any gold. The Pirate Captain is extremely discouraged, but his first mate (Martin Freeman) gives him a pep talk. The Pirate Captain decides to attack one more ship, and that ship belongs to Charles Darwin.
Darwin is himself very discouraged because he has yet to make any great scientific discoveries. So he is thrilled when he realizes that The Pirate Captain’s parrot Polly is not a parrot at all, but rather a Dodo bird. Darwin tries to buy Polly so he can enter her for the “Best Scientific Discovery” award. The Pirate Captain and the first mate laugh Polly isn’t for sale! She is the heart and soul of their ship! But then Darwin says that the science award is “priceless”, and it comes with “untold riches”, and The Pirate Captain decides he will sail to England and enter Polly in the competition himself. He can take the reward back to Blood Island and win Pirate of the Year.
Sailing to England is obviously very dangerous since Queen Victoria hates pirates, but The Pirate Captain and his crew disguise themselves as girl scouts. They stay the night at Darwin’s house, where they are attended by Darwin’s monkey butler. Darwin doesn’t want to share the glory of his discovery with The Pirate Captain, so he and the monkey butler try to steal Polly while The Pirate Captain is sleeping, but they are unsuccessful. To protect Polly, The Pirate Captain hides her in a secure location. The following morning, he disguises himself as a scientist and they sneak into the competition.
At the competition, Darwin expects to take the stage with The Pirate Captain, but instead he upsets a bottle of vinegar in a vat of baking soda and is engulfed in foam. Meanwhile, The Pirate Captain takes the stage and reveals Polly to thunderous applause. He wins “Best Scientific Discovery”, beating out a very impressive airship, but wins only a miniscule trophy and a set of encyclopedias. The Pirate Captain demands to know where the “untold riches” are, and Darwin says the real prize is an audience with Queen Victoria. All the doors and windows slam shut and they are surrounded by guards as Queen Victoria waltzes in.
Queen Victoria is extremely impressed to hear that they have a real live Dodo bird in their possession. She wants to buy Polly for the royal zoo. The Pirate Captain says, “I’m sorry, but I can’t sell Polly. She is the heart and soul of the ship. Nothing is more important to a pirate…” Too late he realizes his mistake, and the Queen is about to execute him. But Darwin whispers in her ear that The Pirate Captain has hidden the Dodo bird, and they will never find Polly if they kill him. The Queen pardons The Pirate Captain in return for Darwin’s promise that he will steal Polly.
The Pirate Captain and his crew are about to sail back to Blood Island, but Darwin convinces The Pirate Captain to stay for a drink with Darwin’s famous friends, including Jane Austen. The Pirate Captain leaves his crew waiting on the ship and gets drunk with Darwin. In his inebriated state, he lets slip that he keeps Polly hidden in his luxurious beard.
The monkey butler snatches Polly again, and The Pirate Captain chases the monkey and Darwin through the streets of London. They end up back at the Queen’s palace, where the Queen unceremoniously dumps Darwin down her garbage chute. She takes The Pirate Captain back to her treasure room where she offers him a mountain of gold for Polly. Faced with all that money, The Pirate Captain can’t refuse. He sells Polly to Queen Victoria.
Back on the ship, The Pirate Captain pretends he stole all the treasure, and pretends that Polly is resting safe in his beard. They sail back to Blood Island where The Pirate King announces that The Pirate Captain has finally won Pirate of the Year! The Pirate Captain is mounting the stage to claim his trophy when Black Bellamy interrupts. He has a newspaper from London that reveals that The Pirate Captain has been pardoned by Queen Victoria! That means The Pirate Captain is not a pirate at all, and therefore is not eligible for Pirate of the Year. The Pirate King strips The Pirate Captain of his hat, coat, treasure, and trophy, and banishes him from Blood Island.
The Pirate Captain’s crew strives to comfort him. They say the prize doesn’t matter after all, the best part about being a pirate is Polly! That is when The Pirate Captain finally has to admit that he sold Polly. The crew is furious. Even the first mate cannot forgive him. They abandon The Pirate Captain in London, where he is forced to make his living selling baby clothes on the street.
The crew sails around for a while, trying to make it on their own, but they miss their captain. The Pirate Captain misses Polly. He breaks into the royal zoo to get her back, but when he arrives, her cage is empty. Charles Darwin is waiting on a park bench, clutching a piece of paper he found in Queen Victoria’s garbage chute. He reveals that Queen Victoria is part of a secret society of world leaders who meet once a year to eat the rarest animals in the world. This year, Polly will be Queen Victoria’s prize dish.
The Pirate Captain tells Charles Darwin that they must attack Queen Victoria’s impregnable warship and save Polly. They steal the airship from the scientific society and fly to the warship. Darwin falls down an airshaft and gets covered in tar, then lands in a crate of chickens, covering himself in feathers. The cook thinks he is an exotic bird, and The Pirate Captain and Darwin are able to sneak into the kitchen. They locate Polly and are about to escape, when Queen Victoria calls down to the kitchen to see what’s taking so long. The Pirate Captain can’t resist answering, and Queen Victoria runs down to stop them.
Queen Victoria drops her skirt, revealing a pair of pantaloons and two swords which she wields ninja-styles. She is kicking the crap out of The Pirate Captain, when the first mate arrives to help him. Darwin’s monkey butler told the crew about The Pirate Captain’s daring rescue attempt, and they have forgiven him for selling Polly. With the first mate’s help, The Pirate Captain hits Queen Victoria with a dozen barrels of vinegar and knocks her down another shaft. The monkey butler slams the door and The Pirate Captain realizes he has knocked the Queen and the vinegar barrels into a huge cache of baking soda.
A massive volcanic eruption results, and the warship is split in two. The Queen rockets into the air, snatches Polly as she goes. She leaps onto the airship and is about to escape. The Pirate Captain manages to snag a rope hanging from the airship, and he hangs on for dear life. The Queen uses Polly’s beak to saw at the rope, but in the process she drops Polly. The Pirate Captain grabs Polly, but his rope breaks and he falls towards the spinning propeller of the warship. His crew makes a human chain and grabs The Pirate Captain and Polly out of the air.
As the crew sails away, the Queen screams after them, “Your pardon is revoked! You will have a higher price on your head than any pirate in the land! You’ll be outlawed across the globe!” The Pirate Captain is thrilled.
As the credits roll, still shots indicate the fate of the characters: Queen Victoria lands her airship on an island where a host of exotic animals lie in wait to eat her. The crew makes The Pirate Captain a homemade “Pirate of the Year” award. Darwin is dropped off on the Galapagos Islands where he is surrounded by beautiful tropical girls. The monkey butler joins the pirate crew. Black Bellamy has his Pirate of the Year trophy revoked. And the pirate crew narrowly escapes being swallowed by a giant sea monster, proving The Pirate Captain’s belief that the decorative drawings on maps represent real hazards.
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