Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

2003, Movie, PG-13, 133 mins


Forget the black pearl. The curse that counts has befallen virtually every pirate movie since 1955 and dooms contemporary filmmakers bold enough to tackle the genre to founder, never recapturing the swashbuckling essence of CAPTAIN BLOOD and THE BLACK SWAN. Its victims include directors as diverse as Roman Polanski (PIRATES) and Renny Harlin (CUTTHROAT ISLAND). This foolhardy, mega-budget Disney gamble (inspired by their popular theme park ride) occasionally comes close to besting the hex: The first 20 minutes include a ripped corset, a daring escape and a sword fight full of derring-do. But the next two hours (!) are only more of the same. For ten years, the pirate ship Black Pearl has plundered merchant vessels and terrorized the high seas. Eight years ago, her mutinous crew, led by second-in-command Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), dumped its notorious captain, Jack Sparrow (a hilarious and heavily mascara-ed Johnny Depp), on a desert isle and made off with a chest of Aztec gold pieces that come with a dire curse: Whosoever removes but a single coin is eternally doomed. The Black Pearl's wretched crewmen have consumed neither grub nor grog for nearly a decade, and moonlight reveals what they've become: creepy, crumbling skeletons. To lift the whammy, the rotting rovers must return all 882 gold pieces to the chest, including the one that now hangs from the lovely neck of Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), feisty daughter of Port Royal Governor Weatherby Swann (Jonathan Pryce). The decaying pirates storm the Caribbean island colony and snatch Elizabeth away, but they're pursued by two devoted suitors: Elizabeth's dull fiancé, Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport), and her secret crush, humble blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). Norrington has the British fleet at his disposal, while Turner must turn to the one person who can lead him back to the Black Pearl's home port: Jack Sparrow. The action is fast, the cast is fun and the hokey-jokey script by SHREK scribes Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio squeezes in just about every convention of the genre. What else could they do? Unlike, say, Westerns, pirate movies don't really have much to say about our culture; aside from reflecting changing attitudes toward women, they don't really evolve. Director Gore Verbinski delivers the best one can hope for: a cleverly nostalgic, high-tech copy of the real deal. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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