Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

"Very Good"

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl Review


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.

Arrested for a lifelong litany of crimes -- after some stimulating swordplay as he tries to steal another ship, of course -- Sparrow is surreptitiously sprung from the hoosegow when the town comes under attack by another band of raucous buccaneers who have come to spirit away a cursed gold medallion and the governor's gorgeous daughter Elizabeth ("Bend It Like Beckham's" Keira Knightley).

Sparrow's liberator is Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, "Lord of the Rings"), the talented orphan apprentice of the port's drunkard sword maker. He has been secretly in love with Elizabeth since the day her father's ship rescued him at sea when they both were children, and now he wants the pirate's help with an impromptu rescue mission.

Together they commandeer the fleet's fastest ship in a sneaky switcheroo that proves Sparrow's gift for chicanery (as its crew overruns a ship they hijacked from the dock, Jack and Will sneak onboard the craft they really wanted in the first place). Then they chase after the villains, who just happen to be a crew of scallywags that had mutinied against Capt. Jack years ago, taking his prize ship (the Black Pearl of the film's title) and marooning him on a lonely isle.

Not far behind are the irritated British, led by a stuffy, pirate-hating commodore (Jack Davenport) who has been promised Elizabeth's hand in marriage.

Director Gore Verbinski ("The Ring") brings nail-biting excitement to the pirate raid, in which the Black Pearl's colorfully sinister crew seems to be unstoppable, even when shot or stabbed (most of which happens just out of frame because despite earning a PG-13 and having a grown-up wit, "Pirates" is really a sharp-witted kids' movie).

As the story unfolds, Verbinski gradually unveils the reason for this invulnerability: The crew has stolen the medallion and kidnapped the girl in an attempt to lift an Aztec hex that has left them in limbo between life and death. When any part of them passes into the moonlight, incredible transparency special effects reveal the pirates to be eerie living skeletons in various states of decay.

Geoffrey Rush matches Depp "arrgh!" for "arrgh!" in a deliciously menacing performance as Barbossa, leader of the undead horde who has his hands full with Elizabeth, a girl who turns out to be one serious spitfire of a damsel in distress. Knightley shows a lot of promise in a role that demands a precision mix of hero-luring helpless screams and pre-feminist fortitude. Bloom is appealing as the valiant young Will, but blends into the woodwork a bit in what is a thankless, wide-eyed-but-feisty Boy Scout role. (Upstaging a pungent plethora of pirates isn't easy.)

Depp, however, shines brightest as the flick's devil-may-care anti-action-hero who lives by the seat of his pants and enjoys provoking anyone not of his Puckish persuasion. Refining his drunken Hunter Thompson body language from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" into a furtively willowy flamboyance, he swashbuckles with the best of them and delivers all his lines with maverick glee. When Sparrow asks how far Will is willing to go to save Elizabeth, the straight-arrow hero responds, "I'll die for her!"

"Oh, good!" exclaims Sparrow with a wicked little grin.

Visually vibrant and spectacularly staged, "Pirates" includes deliberate tweaks of many genre staples (a thrilling side-by-side tall-ship sea battle includes cannons firing silverware when they run out of ammo) and takes inspired advantage of the villainous pirates' walking-dead curse (because they don't need to breathe, in one scene they attack their British pursuers from underwater).

Even managing to incorporate some scenes from the Disneyland ride without being obnoxious about it, the film falls short only in its sweeping yet lackluster swordfights, in a couple minor narrative gaffes, and in dragging its feet on implementing a curse-related twist in the otherwise bracing, extravagant finale.



Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Facts and Figures

Genre: Action/Adventure

Run time: 143 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 9th July 2003

Box Office USA: $305.3M

Box Office Worldwide: $655M

Budget: $140M

Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures

Production compaines: Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 164 Rotten: 44

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Jack Sparrow, as Barbossa, as Will Turner, as Elizabeth Swann, as Norrington, as Joshamee Gibbs, as Anamaria, as Governor Weatherby Swann, as Pintel, as Ragetti, Damian O'Hare as Lt. Gillette, Giles New as Murtogg, Angus Barnett as Mullroy, David Bailie as Cotton, Michael Berry Jr. as Twigg, Isaac C. Singleton Jr. as Bo'sun, as Koehler, Guy Siner as Harbormaster, Ralph P. Martin as Mr. Brown, Paula J. Newman as Estrella (as Paula Jane Newman), Paul Keith as Butler, as Young Will, Lucinda Dryzek as Young Elizabeth Swann, as Frightened Sailor, Michael Sean Tighe as Seedy Looking Prisoner, as Officer, Dustin Seavey as Sentry, Christian Martin as Steersman, as Grapple, as Jacoby, Ben Wilson as Seedy Prisoner #2, Antonio Valentino as Seedy Prisoner #3, as Scarlett, Matthew Bowyer as Sailor / Edinburgh, as Mallot, Mike Babcock as Seedy Prisoner #4, Owen Finnegan as Town Clerk, Ian McIntyre as Sailor, as Giselle, as Crying Boy, as Crying Boy, as Marty, Félix Castro as Moises: Jack's Crew, Mike Haberecht as Kursar: Jack's Crew, Rudolph McCollum as Matelot: Jack's Crew, Gerard J. Reyes as Tearlach: Jack's Crew (as Gerard Reyes), M. Scott Shields as Duncan: Jack's Crew, Christopher Sullivan as Ladbroc: Jack's Crew (as Chris 'Sully' Sullivan), Craig Thomson as Crimp: Jack's Crew, Fred Toft as Quartetto: Jack's Crew, D.P. FitzGerald as Weatherby: Barbossa's Crew, Jerry Gauny as Ketchum: Barbossa's Crew, Maxie J. Santillan Jr. as Maximo: Barbossa's Crew, Michael Earl Lane as Monk: Barbossa's Crew (as Michael Lane), Tobias McKinney as Dog Ear: Barbossa's Crew, David Patykewich as Clubba: Barbossa's Crew, Tommy Schooler as Scarus: Barbossa's Crew, Michael A. Thompson as Simbakka: Barbossa's Crew, Michael W. Williams as Hawksmoor: Barbossa's Crew, Jose Zelaya as Katracho: Barbossa's Crew, Finneus Egan as Scratch: Barbossa's Crew, Don LaDaga as Nipperkin: Barbossa's Crew, LeJon as Lejon (as LeJon Stewart), Christopher S. Capp as Parrot Voice (voice), as Pirate (uncredited), Jordi Caballero as Pirate (uncredited), Paul Gagné as Sailor (uncredited), Joe Grisaffi as Marine (uncredited), James McAuley as Barbossa's Crew (uncredited), Israel Aduramo as Crippled Man

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