Film Reviews


By • Apr 9th, 2003 •

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Buena Vista Pictures / Walt Disney Pictures in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Running time — 144 minutes / MPAA rating: PG-13

I was transfixed! It’s not often an actor makes a decision to totally create a character with bizarre traits and everybody happily goes along with it. Marlon Brando has done it (THE MISSOURI BREAKS, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU and THE SCORE are just three Brando movies that leap to mind) and so did Nicholas Cage (his whiny, high-pitched voice in PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED). Now, Johnny Depp delves deep into this rarefied pool of fearless character excess. And triumphs!

What until you see what Depp does here. You can’t take your eyes off him, and when he’s not in a scene, you’re thinking about him.

Legendary pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is left to die on an uninhabited island when his ship, the Black Pearl, is stolen by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Attacking Port Royal, Barbossa and his men destroy the town and kidnap the Governor’s (Jonathan Pryce) beautiful daughter Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley from BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM). They need to return the gold medallion she is wearing and spill her blood on top of the hidden treasure they are seeking. Elizabeth’s childhood friend, the blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), joins Sparrow to commandeer the fastest ship in the British fleet, the H.M.S. Interceptor, to rescue her and recapture the BLACK PEARL. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s intended betrothed, Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) and the Governor are also in pursuit aboard the H.M.S. Dauntless. But only Jack knows that Captain Barbossa and his crew are under a curse that has caused them to become undead at moonlight. They transform into living skeletons.

Don’t let the fact that PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is patterned after a Disney theme park attraction dissuade your enjoyment. This is not only a terrific, fun movie, it has everything a pirate movie needs, as well as the seductively electrifying Johnny Depp in close-up.

Depp sways, flutters, waves his arms, and flounces around. His every gesture, his hair, his ornaments, his eye makeup, envelopes us into his world of folkloric piracy. His speech pattern is uniquely his own unfettered by country and era. But Depp never winks at us. He’s not showing off. He’s just being true to his character. Depp is fully engaged in playing this exaggerated character who he sees as the archetypal pirate. His co-stars act around him. They are as confused by him as they should be. Even Rush, who can over-act when called to, stays out of his way. The entire cast, especially Bloom, are in a period piece action movie. They treat Sparrow appropriately – like a necessary evil they have to contend with.

So, it is utterly charming when Turner questions Sparrow’s mannerisms by mimicking him. Why in Hell is Sparrow flitting around like this and throwing his fingers in the air thus? Is he mentally ill from months on a deserted island without food or water? Why is his speech slurred? And what has Sparrow done to make all the women in Port Royal so mad at him?

For all my previous constant complaining, here screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio deliver a script with a fresh story filled with flair, colorful characters, and enticing enough to enjoy on many levels. It’s clever, funny, and not condescending. Wonderfully directed by Gore Verbinski and extravagantly produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is lush with grand special effects and a huge budget that is abundantly present on the screen.

Jack Sparrow: Johnny Depp
Barbossa: Geoffrey Rush
Will Turner: Orlando Bloom
Elizabeth Swann: Keira Knightley
Norrington: Jack Davenport
Gov Swann: Jonathan Pryce
Pintel: Lee Arenberg
Ragetti: Mackenzie Crook

Director: Gore Verbinski
Screenwriters: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Screen story by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Executive producers: Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Bruce Hendricks, Paul Deason
Director of photography: Dariusz Wolski
Production designer: Brian Morris
Music: Klaus Badelt
Costume designer: Penny Rose
Editors: Craig Wood, Stephen Rivkin, Arthur Schmidt

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