(Originally published 2003)
Directed by Gore Verbinski, written by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio and Jay Wolpert, 134 minutes, rated PG-13.
Gore Verbinski’s "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" is the perfect mix of action, romance, bombast and wit. It was one of summer’s best movies, a fresh blast of swashbuckling cheer that moves as briskly as a pirate to the promise of a new booty.
The film, which Verbinski ("The Ring," "The Mexican") directed from a script by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio and Jay Wolpert, is great fun—more fun than you’d expect from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who finds in this outing the perfect outlet for his more-is-more-and-then-some-more sensibility.
What the film has going for it beyond its terrific special effects is some surprisingly lively writing, a ripping story, a solid cast that clearly came to have a good time (and was encouraged to do so), and a performance by Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow that suggests a drunken gypsy drag queen fallen on hard times.
With his mascara seemingly applied by the heavy, rummy hand of Alice Cooper and a beard that’s every bit as wiry as his thin frame, Depp’s Sparrow is a grotesque ornament festooned with more gold teeth than a rap star and filled with more hooch than a sidewalk transient, if that’s even possible.
He’s wonderful and uninhibited, swaying on and off land as if the ocean is deliriously moving beneath his feet. It’s the sort of inspired, campy performance that says to hell with convention and turns an already good movie into one that can’t be missed.
In the film, Depp’s Sparrow finds himself in an ugly bit of brine when his boat sinks at port and he hits land in search of a new one.
Unknown to him, the governor’s knockout daughter, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), has recently fallen into the ocean after being asked for her hand in marriage by the stuffy Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport), a man she’d rather not marry as she’d prefer to be with the wily swordsmith, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom).
Because of the mysterious, shimmering gold medallion Elizabeth wears around her neck, her ocean plunge causes all sorts of problems. Indeed, the medallion is actually a crucial component to lifting a curse placed on the swarthy crew of the Black Pearl, a fitfully dead bunch of pirates who need the medallion—along with a certain young man’s blood—to return them to human form.
As led by the salty Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), these swashbuckling zombies, who appear human in daylight yet who are exposed as rotting corpses in moonlight, are determined to reclaim the medallion the moment they get whiff of it.
With its great cast, tight script, light mood and sheer technical aplomb, "Pirates of the Caribbean" fitfully removes another curse. It offers audiences a good pirate picture, something that has seemed increasingly elusive after years of disappointments in "Hook," "Cutthroat Island," "Pirates" and last year’s "Treasure Planet." That last one sent audiences into outerspace, but "Pirates of the Caribbean" will send them to the moon.