"Pirates..." Better Than Other Recent, Genre Movies
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for...someone, but who? It’s hard to tell from watching "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl."
This Jerry Bruckheimerization of the Disney amusement park ride (which frightened me right out of my purple Miss Piggy sneakers when I was 7, I have to admit) is too long and too scary for young kids and too long and not scary enough for adults.
And yet the film has a certain goofy charm, mostly thanks to Johnny Depp and the risky, inspired way he’s interpreted the role of pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow.
While director Gore Verbinski ("The Ring," "The Mexican") lets the final climactic battle drag on too long, and the jokes are hit and miss from screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Oscar nominees for "Shrek"), Depp remains riveting throughout, simply because it’s impossible to predict what he’s going to do.
He phrased it best himself in a recent New York Daily News article when he described his portrayal as a "cross between Keith Richards and Pepe Le Peu." With his flowing ‘do rag and heavy black eye liner, he resembles a refugee from a Duran Duran video, and he saunters instead of walking the plank.
"You are without a doubt the worst pirate I have ever heard of,’’ he’s told. Jack’s unapologetic response: "But you have heard of me."
Depp has brought such inventive eccentricity to smaller, stranger films, like "Edward Scissorhands" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," and it’s welcome here. It’s almost enough to distract from the Disneyfied, artificial perfection of every detail on every ship, building, tree and rock.
In the town of Port Royal, Depp’s character, Jack, teams up with young Will Turner (Orlando Bloom from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy) to rescue the governor’s feisty daughter, Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), who’s been kidnapped by pirates.
Leading the pirates is Jack’s enemy, Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who stole his ship, the Black Pearl. Jack wants his ship back, Will wants Elizabeth back _ even though she’s reluctantly engaged to the pompous Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport).
But killing the pirates and snatching Elizabeth back isn’t so easy. Barbossa and his crew are under a curse that dooms them to live forever and turns them into living skeletons in the moonlight.
This gets more complicated than it needs to be, and then there’s more: The curse can be broken with the help of a gold medallion and a few drops of blood, but from whom? Elizabeth? Will? The mystery takes way too long to unravel.
Some of the CGI effects are extremely cool, though, including one scene in which the cursed Black Pearl pirates sneak up on the British navy by walking across the ocean floor at night in skeleton form, then crawling up the sides of their ship undetected.
And there is more than a sufficient amount of swashbuckling; an early duel between Will and Jack, in which they battle while balancing high above the ground on wooden beams, is especially well choreographed.
Odd as "Pirates of the Caribbean’’ is, it’s still better than other pirate movies that have washed ashore in recent years, namely the notorious "Cutthroat Island.’’ But I think I’d rather watch ``The Goonies’’ on cable for the 40th time — or see my childhood hero, Miss Piggy, in ``Muppet Treasure Island.’’
"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" is rated PG-13 for action/adventure violence. Running time: 143 minutes.