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Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush
Director: Gore Verbinski
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 133 Minutes
Release Date: June 2003
Genres: Action, Mystery

*Also starring: Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg, Brye Cooper, Paul Cagney, Jack Davenport, Lucinda Dryzek, Lauren Maher, Greg Ellis

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewmovie review
3.  Susan Granger read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
4.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Harvey Karten
1½ stars out of 4

Special effects or not, for swashbuckling action modern films have a tough act to follow if they're out to equal the gems that graced Errol Flynn's repertory of films involving clashing swords, exploding muskets, passionate romance and boundless energy. The Tasmanian superhero and real life lover, the subject of many a scandalous article in magazines that preceded `People,'could knock his audience dead with fare like Michael Curtiz's 1936 epic`The Charge of the Light Brigade' (based on Tennyson's poem about an immortal charge into the valley of death by British 27th Lancers cavalry) and Raoul Walsh's `They Died with their Boots On' (featuring a Flynn as the unlucky loser at the Little Bighorn battle). Tyrone Power was no slouch in that department either, a drop-dead handsome performer whose role in an adaptation of a Sabatini novel `The Black Swan' in 1942 involved his saving Maureen O'Hara from the Clutches of George Sanders and Anthony Quinn. While swashbuckler/pirate pics never really went out of style. Witness Steven Spielberg's joyless `Hook' which dealt with Robin Williams' rediscovering his identity to rescue his children from Captain Hook's clutches and Renny Harlin's uninvolving `Cutthroat Island' (wherein pirate Geena Davis joins forces with Matthew Modine to avenge her father's death and find a treasure map). These offered no template on which to base future action movies of that kind.

If such fare is to capture the youthful generation as did the swashbucklers of the past, a serious treatment is in order. What we get instead from Disneywho, word is, wants to use this as a base for distributing a string of films of that subgenreis a jumble combining special effects technology to illustrate yet another bunch of undead dudes with a campy performance by Johnny Depp as the unlikely savior of a woman kidnaped by a swinish 17th century pirate captain who has been alive (in a way) for the past 300 years but has not lost his zest for action. The principal trouble with the overlong production is that Depp, a stellar character actor, is limited to a one-joke medley of tics and spastic gestures that pall before he's on the screen for twenty minutes or so. The swordfights are endless and tiresome, the buffoonish undead characters, one of whom keeps losing his left eye, recovering it and slapping it on like a pair of 1960's style contact lenses, indulge in terminally stale slapstick.

As background to the story, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) lost his ship, the Black Pearl, was stolen by his rival, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). When Barbossa invades the town of Port Royal, abducting the daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) of the British governor (Jonathan Pryce), three men are determined to rescue her. One is the upper class Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) whose rival (and, of course, the man preferred by the kidnapee), mere blacksmith Will Turner, eventually joins with the Captain Sparrow. In the melodramatic tradition, the balance of power shifts regularly between the charming Captain Sparrow and his ruthless rival while at home, the blacksmith and the commodore are vying for the hand of the beautiful governor's daughter. To put the film in tune with the taste of the modern summer blockbuster audience, Captain Barbossa and his crew are cursed even more than Coleridge's Ancient Mariner and company, as they must live for an eternity, turning into skeletons nightly by the light of the moon, until a plundered treasure is restored.

Needless to say in this campy version, the entire population on the screen are virtually winking at the audience, not the least being the weird guy forever losing his left eye like a modern miss searches a basketball floor for her displaced lens. Johnny Depp tries all too mightily to evoke laughs with his jagged bodily gestures, a case study for a modern neurologist who is clued in that he developed his tics because of an unfortunate exile on a tiny, isolated island.

Perhaps only the cast were more uncomfortable during the filming than those in the audience who go along with my views. The action takes place on St. Vincent Island, one of those dots on the map without luxury hotels that the super-rich populate in order to be away from the Hilton-loving nouveau riches or to brag about how much discomfort they were able to stand. The film cost $125 million to produce, a sum that would go a long way toward providing a traveler with a few years' beachcoming throughout the Caribbean.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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