Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

dir. Gore Verbinski

Now playing at a buttload of theaters.

There is much to appreciate in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. It's big, loud, stupid, entertaining, comical, well made, and suitably swashbuckling. It stars Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, two rather accomplished actors, and was directed by Gore Verbinski, whose last film, The Ring, proved he knows his ass from a camera lens. Also on hand are Orlando Bloom, who sends the hearts of teenage girls fluttering, and Keira Knightley, who sends the heart of this reviewer fluttering.

But there is also a stench coating the picture, and that stench has to do with the title. Take another gander at it: Pirates of the Caribbean. Yes, that Pirates of the Caribbean, the one found within those 200 family-friendly Orange County acres known as Disneyland. Needless to say, Pirates is a Walt Disney production and, as such, achieves a new low in creative cannibalism. After all, can future attractions be far behind? Apparently not, for before the screening we were shown a preview for Disney's upcoming Eddie Murphy picture. Its title: The Haunted Mansion. One suspects Big Mountain Thunder Railroad is looming out there on the horizon for summer 2005.

Still, whatever carping I and other maladjusted freaks (i.e., film critics) may do about Pirates' inception, the film's the thing, and Pirates of the Caribbean certainly stands up with the season's other offerings. Watching it, I realized how supremely disappointing it is that in the 108 years since the Lumière brothers first fumbled with their primitive cinematograph, we are only just now being given a zombie pirate movie. And even if the film's story is fairly irrelevant (a quick summation: cursed pirate ship, kidnapped maiden, much swordplay), the action is solid, the CGI intricate, and the writing adequate--and what more could you want from a summer blockbuster, especially when Johnny Depp is a such sight to behold in the film?

Taking grip of the lead character and sprinting away with it, Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow as a drunk, fey scallywag, and appears to be having much more fun than he should; if, upon hearing of his involvement in the film, you thought he was doing nothing more than compromising himself in some sort of money grab, his performance speaks otherwise, for both he and Geoffrey Rush, as the villain, infuse the film with creative class. They are the center of the monumental production and, as such, keep the ships properly anchored.

Directed with a steady, if somewhat unflourished hand by Verbinski, Pirates of the Caribbean is the best kind of escapist entertainment--enjoyable while the lights are down, and quick to vaporize once the lights have returned. Just don't think too hard about where the film sprang from, or just what sort of nefarious future such obscenely obvious marketing-driven cinema lays out ahead of us. Will we one day see a Six Flags film franchise? Aye, probably.