Pirate films have been a curse on cinema for a quite a while in recent years (Cutthroat Island, anyone?), and outside of releasing Pixar flicks, Disney hadn't been doing any better quality-wise -- so when Gore Verbinski (fresh off The Ring remake) and virtuoso Johnny Depp came aboard the beloved adaptation of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme-park ride, eyebrows were definitely raised. So how does it stack up? Well, in a time of massive summer blockbusters, this high-sailing ship is definitely a crowd-pleaser. The scale is huge, with technical brilliance in front and behind the camera, while swords clash, cannons roar, and wit is dished out at every corner. Following a kind of Stephen Sommers' Mummy-esque tradition, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl has "lighthearted" written all over it, no small thanks to Depp's brilliantly over-the-top creation, Captain Jack Sparrow. Mix Keith Richards and Depp's Hunter S. Thompson together and you're about halfway there with this brilliantly wild performance. Turning in another juicy role is Geoffrey Rush as the cursed Captain Barbossa, a dastardly villain whom Rush was no doubt meant to play. Also worth mentioning are heartthrobs Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley as the film's love interests. Knightley perks it up as the spunky female lead just fine, though Bloom's soft-spoken manner and delivery are frankly starting to wear thin outside of his Legolas gig. The ILM skeletal effects are well done and neat, especially in the final sword fight between Sparrow and Barbossa (where columns of light are used ingeniously in the final effect). For all the thrilling moments though, Pirates is hobbled by one thing -- its running time. Well over two hours, it's just flat out too long. Thankfully, with zombie monkey skeletons and Depp virtually stealing the show, the film still manages to deliver. So take the kids, put up your feet, and sing "Yo Ho," for this is one Disney pirate flick that surprisingly does not disappoint.
by Jeremy Wheeler review