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Pirates of the Caribbean (PG-13)
The Curse of the Black Pearl
Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Gore Verbinski
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush

Rating: out of 5

Who would have ever guessed that a movie based on a Disney theme park ride could be any good? It was a pleasant surprise to emerge from the theater thoroughly satisfied. Pirates Of The Caribbean feels like a serial of the 1930s. It is filled with fantastical journeys, high seas adventure, and swarthy pirates. Gore Verbinski has once again proven himself a capable director in any genre of film, easily switching gears from the taut, suspenseful The Ring to this fanciful farce.

As the title would indicate the movie is set in the Caribbean and the dress of the British marines would suggest sometime in the 1700s, but really the time and place are when bands of pirates roved the high seas taking anything and anyone that wasn’t nailed to the floor. The pirates in this movie are straight out of childhood imagination complete with eye patches, parrots, and an unlimited supply of rum. During the course of this movie people will walk the plank, be abandoned on a desert island, prepare to repel boarders, and be subjected to all sorts of classic pirate dialogue—Avast! Har Har! and the like.

All is well in the city of Port Royal until an undead(!) group of pirates lead by Captain Barbossa (Rush) sails into town and abducts the governor’s lovely daughter Elizabeth (Knightley) in a case of mistaken identity. Town blacksmith Will Turner (Bloom) has taken quite a fancy to Elizabeth and he takes pursuit with help of Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp), Barbossa’s former commander and quite possibly the worst (or is it the best?) pirate on earth. Together this unlikely pair must sail to the Isla de Muerte and stop the pirates from sacrificing Elizabeth in a ceremony that would lift their undead curse, and since they themselves are pirates our two heroes must stay one step ahead of the British navy.

Pirates takes a while to get going, but once Elizabeth is abducted things pick up and even during the slow parts the movie is quite enjoyable. The enthusiasm and charisma of the cast elevates this movie to the next level. Johnny Depp is as always excellent. He keeps Jack’s cards close to the vest, never revealing his true intentions or if his drunken ways and idiosyncratic behavior are mere façades concealing the most cunning rogue to sail the high seas. Despite his pirate garb, Johnny’s mannerisms do come off as a bit effeminate. When the movie is over and the credits have begun to roll one is still not entirely sure of Jack Sparrow’s true nature. Knightley’s Elizabeth is a capable young woman with some modern ideas about love and woman’s undergarments, but not so modern as to create a harsh juxtaposition that disrupts the illusary world created in the film. Bloom plays another straight arrow (no pun intended) character with Turner, who is willing to do anything to rescue the love of his life. None of this really matters: The youth, talent, and comely appearance of these two foretells their becoming major Hollywood players with this movie being another step on their way to the top.

The pirates themselves are integral members of the cast and they benefit from some great special effects work. When exposed to moonlight the pirates reveal their true forms as undead skeletons and once they step into shadow they look just like “normal.” This effect is used only once or twice and never becomes a gimmick, but the transition from pirate to skeleton and back is perfect. It features skeletons interacting with non-skeletons (and thus non-CGI) without a hitch. Many swordfights take place during Pirates and while they are all enjoyable, it does take a bit long for them to reach their inevitable conclusions. The final fight takes a good 25 minutes of rapier-thrusting insanity with constant musical crescendos in the background. At the movie’s end, expect to be suffering from sensory overload. It is a minor quibble really because Pirates Of The Caribbean keeps it lightweight at all times and delivers exactly what it promises—high seas, high adventure, and boatloads of fun.

—Woodrow Bogucki


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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