eave it to Disney, a company that's never passed up the
chance to squeeze every single dollar out of a property, to make a movie out of
an amusement park ride. Normally it's the other way around. "Pirates of the
Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl", besides having the most unnecessarily
long title since "Star
Wars, Episode One: The Phantom Menace", is also a throwaway movie.
Mostly amusing, sometimes irritating, and stupidly convoluted at times. Of
course all those things don't seem to prevent "Pirates" from being an
entertaining summer fare.
Johnny Depp ("From Hell") headlines as Jack
Sparrow, a (supposedly) legendary pirate who used to be the captain of the
titular Black Pearl pirate ship. That is, until his second mate mutinied and
dumped him on an island for dead. Now having escaped from the island, Sparrow is
suddenly captured for piracy and sentenced to hang by uptight English Officer
Norrington (Jack Davenport). Luckily for Sparrow, stable boy and secret
swordsmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) springs him so he can be lead to the
Black Pearl, currently being crewed by ghosts and led by their leader Barbossa
(Geoffrey Rush), the very same second mate who took over Sparrow's ship.
It seems that during the night Barbossa's ghosts had raided
the English colony. The ghosts are currently on a 10-year quest to seek out
every piece of Aztec gold that has cursed them to a life as ghosts, unable to
feel or eat or die. Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), the colony Governor's
daughter as well as Turner's secret crush, is currently in possession of said
piece of Aztec gold. One thing leads to another and she ends up onboard the
ghost ship, and it's up to Turner to save her. But the stable boy needs
Sparrow's help, since being all English and whatnot, Norrington is forbidden by
Movie Law from being anything other than a clichéd hindrance. And oh yeah,
stuffy. Did I mention he's stuffy?
"Pirates of the Caribbean" is an enjoyable little
jaunt through the History of the World According to Disney -- or in other words,
it's basically everything you're used to about contemporary society shoved down
the throats of whatever historical period Disney is currently pillaging for
profit at the moment. Needless to say, English lass Elizabeth is more
comfortable battling ghost pirates than wearing a corset and the screenwriters
even throw in a superfluous Sassy Black Woman for no apparent reason. Couldn't
they have at least given her a reason for existing?
The unquestionable star of "Pirates" is Johnny
Depp, who seems to be channeling a gay cross dresser and an inebriated gay cross
dresser. The guy lights up the screen with charm and panache, which is a good
thing because Orlando Bloom ("The
Two Towers"), sans Elfen ears, proves to be a terrible bore. It doesn't
help that his character is written as somewhat shallow and, on many occasions,
rather unlikable. (Why did he double-cross poor Sparrow and left him in the
midst of the pirates again?) And Keira Knightley ("Bend
it Like Beckham"), despite being the loveliest English import since
Kate Beckinsale turned on American men everywhere with "Pearl
Harbor", needs to get those lips of hers under control. Knightley has
basically one acting style -- feisty and feistier. And when she gets really
feisty, her lips start moving around like worms trying to escape her face. I kid
you not. It's sort of scary, really.
"Pirates of the Caribbean" is already a big hit
in a summer filled with big-budget letdowns. Director Gore Verbinski, last seen
for American audiences, obviously is going for an amusement ride-like atmosphere
here, which seems appropriate considering the movie's pedigree.
"Pirates" is constantly moving, things and places are constantly
exploding, and even the CGI, despite looking quite good, also looks a tad
obvious (which was probably the intent). Then there's the violence. Despite its
generous rating, "Pirates" has a number of violent swordfights and
battle scenes, and although they're not bloody, people do die. Actually, a
lot of people die. I do not recommend the film for younger viewers. The
ghosts aren't scary at all, but seeing them slaughter their way through a ship
full of soldiers might be a bit disconcerting.
"Pirates" is the perfect movie for summer. It's
loud, violent, mindless, and has all the clichés that Hollywood can muster.
Johnny Depp is engaging and excellent, and everyone else is just along for the
ride. Without Depp's insane performance, it's hard to see how the film could
have succeeded. Certainly Turner and Elizabeth's romance isn't involving; both
of them are rather grating on the nerves, actually. Thank God for Depp, who put
a smile on my face the first time he showed up onscreen, and left it there until
the closing credits appeared.