Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (4)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


 If you think the title is long, wait until you see the movie.  At two hours, 23 minutes running time, a good guy captured by pirates should pray for a plank to walk thatís this long.  Gone with the Wind, which covered the Civil War and its aftermath, was only 55 minutes longer. Although you might find it hard to believe as youíre sitting through it, it does end eventually, and the proof is that I am actually sitting here writing this review.

Johnny Depp plays a constantly inebriated pirate captain (Jack Sparrow) in this tongue-in-cheek sendup of pirate movies.  Did we really need a sendup of pirate movies?  Whenís the last time you saw one?  Who was in it?  Burt Lancaster?  Gene Kelly?  Errol Flynn?  What, Hollywood has nothing better to do than spoof a genre thatís been dead for fifty years?

 And, please, if youíre going to do a spoof, make it intelligent.  People it with good actors.  Give it a good script.  Give it a story, for heavenís sake.  Alas, Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer did none of these.  Oh, there are a couple of guys, Geoffrey Rush, who plays the dastardly Captain Barbossa, and another guy, who do pale imitations of Robert Newton as Long John Silver in Treasure Island, circa 1950, the quintessential cinematic pirate.  But, like this movie, they fall way, way short of Newtonís genius. 

 In the unlikely event that you still want to see this, I wonít ruin it for you by telling the story (thatís a joke, son).  Thereís Hitchcockís mainstay, the McGuffin that the pirates need, and itís all pretty silly, but thatís OK because this is a farce (and I donít use that as a term of opprobrium; itís meant to be a farce). But I will warn you that, except for Depp and Rush, the actingís mediocre at best.  Keira Knightly, who did a workmanlike job in Bend it Like Beckham is mightily miscast here as the gorgeous damsel in distress, Elizabeth Swann.  Sheís not gorgeous enough (sheís not gorgeous, period).  And the lines sheís given would put any actress to the test.  Deppís besotted Captain Sparrow starts out humorous, but finally becomes tiresome.  Iím also offended by vacuous filmmakers who think itís funny to show the harmless drunk.  Alcoholism is no joke, folks, and movies like this (and the worst of the loveable drunk genre, Arthur) trivialize a serious problem.  Hollywood, however, loves drugs; youíre not gonna breathe much if you hold your breath until Hollywood takes a stand against drug use.  Even though we donít see him taking a drink until near the longed-for end, Sparrowís constantly drunk, even when heís locked away in jail.

 This has a lot of mindless violence.  But thatís what you would expect in a pirate movie, unless itís The Pirates of Penzance. Here people keep fighting dead people who canít be killed.  They knew they were dead going in.  Whatís the point?  And the fights take up about the last seven hours (OK, it just seemed like seven hours) of the movie.  One fight after another between a man and a skeleton.  Then thereís a fight between two skeletons.  There apparently arenít any Basil Rathbones left in Hollywood because all the sword fighting is shot with Chicago-like quick cuts so you canít see if any of these hunks can actually handle a sword.

 This is apparently a big hit if you judge by numbers.  The only way I can explain this is to postulate that watching this after sitting through Charlieís Angels: Full Throttle, Legally Blonde 2, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is akin to the relief you feel when someone stops hitting you over the head with a hammer and starts pinching you.  Itís good only in comparison with what came before.

 July 14, 2003

 The End