Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Captain Jack Sparrow, man, what a character! He’s a little Keith Richards, a little Pepe LePew and a whole lotta Johnny Depp! I’d like to say that the film itself is as amusing as Sparrow, but I’d be lying. It’s not that “Pirates of the endless title: and subtitle” is a bad movie, it’s just a bit flawed and overblown.

As a young girl, the Governor’s daughter Elizabeth (tomboy beanpole Keira Knightley) is aboard one of the British fleet’s ships when they rescue Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a boy stranded near a pillaged and sunken boat. This is clearly the work of pirates, but not your average pirates. Cruel, vicious, demented pirates to be sure, but cruel vicious demented pirates that can’t be killed! Har-dee-har-har, after unearthing and squandering a chest full of Aztec gold, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush as “a man so evil that Hell itself spat him back out”) and his crew realise that the treasure is cursed and find themselves stripped down to their skeletons and a few strips of rotting flesh (but only when hit by moonlight, otherwise they look okay – producer Jerry Bruckheimer probably wanted to save on special effects).

To lift the curse, the pirates of the Black Pearl must put all the Aztec gold back together and spill some Bootstrap family blood and… Meh, never mind, it doesn’t make much sense and it’s a bit boring. Needless to say, this is one of the film’s faults. I’m game for silly fantastic stuff, but don’t bore me with long scenes of exposition that unsuccessfully attempt to explain said silly fantastic stuff. The whole pacing of the film is off, really. It takes nearly an hour before the action gets into gear (is there anything duller than displeased British officers in white wigs?) and even after that, it’s stop-n-go until the stretched out epilogue.

As mentioned, Depp is fun as the sleazy, wickedly irreverent Sparrow, and Bloom proves himself as a charismatic hero and splendid physical performer (we knew that already from his work as Legolas in “The Lord of the Rings”), but they’re kinda lost in the overbaked plot. The script is so concerned with double-crossings and mythology that it doesn’t bother to give Will and Elizabeth more than a couple of scenes together, which undermines the potential poignancy of their unconsumed romance. This might be excusable if at least the swashbuckling, stunts and skeleton attacks were great, but they’re merely adequate PG-13 mayhem. Still, Gore Verbinski is skilled at making atmospheric, well designed pictures, and overall, this is more enjoyable than not.