Click here 5 stars

Yo, ho, ho
and a bottle
of fun

Disney shanghais
Bruckheimer, Verbinski,
Depp, Bloom and Rush
for a great
adventure movie
Johnny Depp (Jerry Bruckheimer in larger image)

"Pirates of the Caribbean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

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I didn't do handsprings when Disney said it was making this movie based on its popular ride, which happens to be one of my personal favorites. After all, "Country Bears" left a stench so thick in theaters last year that some exhibitors were forced to fumigate.

the ship

Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley

Geoffrey Rush

Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom

Gore Verbinski (Jack Davenport in larger image)
However, someone at Mouse House got the brilliant idea to turn over the movie to überproducer Jerry Bruckheimer, who in turn had the brilliant idea to hand the directing reins to Gore Verbinski, who directed "The Ring" and "Mouse Hunt" -- but more importantly, was responsible for the invention of the Budweiser Frogs. Finally, Verbinski had the even more brilliant idea of casting Johnny Depp as one of the nefarious pirates.

The result is one of the best adventure movies of recent years.

Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), an apprentice blacksmith and swordmaker in the Caribbean colony of Port Royal, is in love with Elizabeth, the governor's daughter (Keira Knightley). Her somewhat bumbling father (Jonathan Pryce) has made a far better match for her, betrothing her to a dashing naval commander (Jack Davenport). Will takes solace in capturing a cunning pirate named Jack Sparrow (Depp), late of the infamous Black Pearl, who is scheming to retake the ship and crew -- who left him marooned on an uninhabited isle.

Unlike Gilligan, Sparrow escapes and makes his way to Port Royal, only to be thrown in the hoosegow and sentenced to be hanged.

His sentence is interrupted by the Black Pearl itself, with its new commander, the bloodthirsty Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), which storms Port Royal, wreaking great destruction and mayhem. The plucky Elizabeth is taken, no doubt to be ransomed back to her wealthy father. The British navy makes a cursory search for her, but knows a ransom will have to be paid.

Turner takes matters into his own hands, breaking Sparrow out of jail and enlisting his help save his ladylove. Sparrow is to get his old ship back in the process. Sparrow agrees, and the two sail off headed for the lair of the Black Pearl. To this point, it's pretty much a routine pirate movie.

Now is where the movie really gets interesting. It turns out that Barbossa and his crew have no intention of ransoming the girl back. They are under a terrible curse, one laid on them by angry Aztec gods for having stolen sacred gold. The crew have become the living dead, whose condition is revealed by moonlight. They are invulnerable and immortal, but unable to partake in the pleasures of the flesh that their wealth would buy them. Desperate to become human again, they need to reassemble the entire Aztec treasure and sacrifice an innocent human to placate the gods.

Elizabeth has the last ingot, and she makes a nifty innocent sacrifice. Turner takes great exception to that plan.

This is the kind of movie for which summers were made. Beautifully filmed, wonderfully acted and a nifty storyline to boot, with plenty of eye candy to satiate even the most jaded moviegoer.

Depp, in particular, is absolutely out of this world. He seems to be half drunk all the time, and all drunk half the time, but his charade of inebriation hides a keen mind and a terrifying tactician. With an airy wave of his hand, Depp tosses off bon mots like Dean Martin, but when the scene calls for swordplay, he is unusually graceful and adept.

Of course, Bloom can handle a sword himself, as he has shown in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. He makes a compelling romantic lead, but is simply blown out of the water by Depp. Knightley is lustrous, yet retains enough spunk to make her character interesting. In fact, all of the major and minor characters here are interesting; they seem to fall in the Disney family ethos, but have edges rough enough to make them appealing to a more mature crowd.

Rush is absolutely delicious as a film villain, as he was in "Mystery Men." He's completely terrific here.

Verbinski has a wonderful sense of scope, and the look is as epic as any pirate movie from Hollywood's heyday. He throws in wonderful visuals of cursed pirates that owe only their concepts to the Disney ride, enough so that one can recognize them in the movie, but definitely much farther developed than the more primitive animatronics of the theme park attraction.

Pirate movies haven't been much in vogue of late, but this one will change all that. This is much fun for the entire family, and a movie you are sure to want to own so you can enjoy the ride over and over again. Michael Jackson must absolutely be eating his own liver right now - he constructed a copy of the ride on his Neverland ranch for a pretty penny. He could have waited and bought the DVD.

AT HOME OR AT A THEATER?
If you can still find it showing on a dollar cinema somewhere, by all means check it out. But you are definitely going to want to own this one, too.

DVD:


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