The very idea of a movie based on a Disneyland ride -- let alone such a movie produced by Jerry "Kaboom" Bruckheimer, whose standards of quality extend only to the explosions that substituted for plot in 15 years of imbecilic summer blockbusters -- had me dreading "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" since it was first announced almost two years ago.

But I'm now here to eat every bad word I said in anticipation of this matinee marvel. Exhilarating from beginning to end, vivid with atmosphere, cleverly cliché-mocking, and blessed with two top-notch, over-the-top performances by Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush (I should have trusted these two intrepid actors), it may well be one of the most enjoyable pirate escapades of all time.

Festooned in a three-point hat over gypsy hair, a billowy shirt, kohl-blackened eyes and gold-capped teeth that he thrusts forward as he speaks, Depp stars as Capt. Jack Sparrow, a dirty, flirty, disarmingly dishonest swashbuckler of subtly dubious sexuality (a covert pirate flick custom since the silent era) who sails into a 17th century Caribbean colonial port atop the mast of a rapidly sinking sailboat.

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