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By Mark Sells | July 11, 2003

Wha….HOLY CRAP! Someone call as many members of the press as possible, INCLUDING The National Enquirer! This is big news, because Jerry Bruckheimer actually didn’t f**k up a movie! Perhaps that was also because he didn’t use his directorial boy-toy, Michael Bay for this go-around. Instead, he seemed to actually grow brains long enough to choose Gore Verbinski for the director’s chair. In turn, we get an entertaining, swashbuckling adventure that includes a terrific performance by Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, who does VERY well as Captain Barbossa, a real pirate sumbitch, the likes of which haven’t been seen for a very long time.
It’s my personal policy not to point to any other writings by critics on any movies that I might be writing about, but in this case, I must put it aside for a brief time and point to Roger Moore’s review for the Orlando Sentinel. Now for those with mouths agape from reading that last sentence, it’s not the actor. Moore’s review of this film states something to the effect of Depp’s voice sinking into the “mock-mumbled cadences” that Dudley Moore used as Arthur Bach in 1981’s “Arthur”. Strictly speaking, we may have actually found an ancestor of Arthur. Nevertheless, that’s not the only thing that contributes to Depp’s performance. He’s well aware of how this film should play and really has great fun with the role. He’s been wonderfully blessed with fine make-up artists and costumers for the part, and it shows with his grungy face and clothing that Donna Karan would likely retch over.
Oh, but it seems I am forgetting what else this film has been blessed with as well. First off is the screenplay by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, who also handled the script for The Mask of Zorro. The same kind of fun found there is ingrained here, though to a lesser degree because after all, this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production. Anyway, we find Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) in a sinking boat, scooping up water with a bucket and throwing it overboard. Wow. In the days of high-priced special effects, it’s definitely a refreshing sight to see something like that done. Anyway, he’s perched on top of his vessel and as it sinks to the bottom, he steps on to the pier and the adventure begins.
Also included in this adventure is Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), the governor’s daughter who, as a little girl, came upon a boy floating in the water with a medallion made of Aztec gold. Pirates fascinated her then and apparently they still do now. That boy is Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith who doesn’t know who he actually is, but just spends his days making swords and engaging in intense swordplay on his own time. Jonathan Pryce is on hand as the governor and doesn’t have too much to do, but provides great laughs when the climax begins and ends.
Minor spoilers lie ahead say I…Aaarrrrr
The full story involves Sparrow and his ship, the Black Pearl, which he was thrown from in a mutiny led by his first mate, Barbossa, consequently finding himself marooned on an island. He wants the ship back and it turns out that the crew currently on the boat is cursed because the Aztec gold that Knightley has is the last piece to a lost treasure that has transformed the boys of the Black Pearl into skeletons, meaning they can’t feel anything or engage in any pleasures they enjoyed in their human form. This is pretty much what drives Barbossa to do what he must in order to drop this damned curse. Geoffrey Rush has an enormous presence and seems to really relish the role. After all, in today’s film industry after the pirate genre has failed them before, how often do you get to play a pirate? Barbossa and his crew kidnap Elizabeth. Turner, who’s had feelings for Elizabeth for quite some time, joins up with Sparrow to try and save her. Unique personalities are also given to many of the members of Sparrow’s newly formed crew, as well as Barbossa’s current one. In other words, there are no anonymous henchmen to be found here. One of the more impressive aspects of the crew is one guy who wants a glass eye, but has to make do with the one he has – one that pops out on him from time to time.
The sword fighting sequences, on a scale of “crap” to “The Mark of Zorro” (The 1940 feature, starring Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone, which has the best sword fighting sequence in the history of cinema), are middling. At times, the editing doesn’t stick with many of the battles on board the ship for too long, jumping from one to the other to the other, which is typical Bruckheimer style and that’s alright, but a closer look at some of the swordfights would have been nicer, though the one early on in the film between Jack Sparrow and Will Turner isn’t a bad try. There are a few nods to the ride in the movie, with many scenes lit like the attraction, huge splashes in the water during battle, and even the dog with the keys in his mouth, where Depp, in the same prison with the pirates trying to get the keys from the dog, has one of the best lines in the movie.
“Pirates of the Caribbean” is an exciting time at the movies, where you don’t smell something burning and realize it’s your brain cells dying off. During the summer movie season, that’s rather hard to avoid. But this movie has avoided it and it’s time well spent.

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