Pirates of the Caribbean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl

        I will readily admit that I went into this movie with some trepidation.
It's based on an amusement park ride, for God's sake. I mean, the other
time Disney has tried to translate a theme park attraction into a feature film,
the result was awful. Don't believe me? Remember
(2002)? Didn't think so.

        The second strike this film had going against it was the director, Gore
Verbinski, the man who made his name directing a beer commercial that
featured frogs. Okay, so he parlayed that into a film career, but with middling
efforts like
MOUSE HUNT, THE MEXICAN and THE RING on his resume, let's
just say that my interest in the film wasn't stirred by seeing his name in the

        What I did find interesting, though, was the presence of Johnny Depp
in such a rather commercial vehicle. Depp has been something of an outsider
in Hollywood and he appeared to relish that position. I'm sure he's had his
pick of mainstream projects but he eschewed them for more intriguing and
fascinating stuff like his collaborations with Tim Burton or movies such as
BLOW, THE MAN WHO CRIED and even CHOCOLAT. I wasn't all that
excited by the other cast members until I noticed that one of my favorite
British actors -- Jack Davenport -- had a supporting role. So, going into the
movie, I had mixed expectations. The film could either be god-awful or it
might be at least passable. I did not expect it to be as much of a rollicking
good time as it turned out to be.

        Pirate films have long been in short supply since the genre appeared
to be tapped out. The few attempts to re-animate the moribund species --
things like
CUTTHROAT ISLAND (1995) or PIRATES (1986) -- were just
terrible. Like the Western, though, the genre was just waiting for someone
to come along and add a dash of spice. In this case, that someone was
Johnny Depp. In his hands, the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, the
mascara-wearing, slightly effete pirate captain is a memorable creation.
That he is surrounded by a swashbuckling story that is handled with just
the right touches of humor is even more exhilarating.

        The rather complicated plot, concocted by four writers (Jay Wolpert,
Stuart Beattie, Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, with the latter pair sharing the
final screenplay credit), starts off with a mutiny. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush)
The Black Pearl from Sparrow who is left on a remote island. Somehow,
Sparrow escapes and arrives in Port Royale just as the pirates attack and
kidnap Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley), the daughter of the governor
(Jonathan Pryce). Elizabeth's erstwhile fiance, Norrington (Jack Davenport),
sets off in pursuit, as does a blacksmith named Will Turner (Orlando Bloom)
who enlists Jack Sparrow to aid him. This is followed by numerous set pieces
of battles on land and sea.

        The whole feature film is one giant ride -- which considering its origins
is perhaps to be expected. What holds the audience's interest though is
the cast. Depp gives his loosest and looniest performance yet -- and it is
spectacular. He is matched in intensity by Geoffrey Rush as rival pirate
Barbossa (who harbors his own secret). The less said about the bland lovers,
however, the better. But the various pirate crews and those in their pursuit
bring tremendous energy and verve to the proceedings and make the whole
film an enjoyable romp.


Rating:                        A-
                       MPAA Rating:             PG-13 for action/adventure violence
                       Running time:            143 mins.

© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.