Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
With eyes nearly obscured by heavy mascara and eye shadow, sporting a braided goatee, dreadlocks, gold and silver slathered across his teeth, and an outfit so adorned with beads, bandanas, rings, and dirt that it looks like he stumbled drunk into a novelty pirate thrift shop, Johnny Depp is the life of the party in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
. He plays notorious pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, the one man who knows the location of the secret pirate treasure stash, the Island of the Dead. As played by Depp however, he is also the most flamboyant dandy ever to set foot in the Caribbean.
When the cursed pirates of the infamous ship the Black Pearl, led by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), get wind that the last piece of cursed booty they are searching for is in the hands of young English maiden Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) they attack her Caribbean port town and kidnap the lass. Elizabeth’s handsome Royal Navy commodore love interest follows in hot pursuit, but only Swan’s childhood crush Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a mere blacksmith, can save her with the help of the legendary Jack Sparrow (Depp).
Subtitled The Curse of the Black Pearl
to prevent confusion between the movie and the Disney ride that provides the film’s inspiration (What? You mean there isn’t a water tour through animatronic pirate-land installed at this theater?), this Gore Verbinski-helmed, Jerry Bruckheimer-produced pirate epic flays all over the place. As far as Bruckheimer films go, Pirates of the Caribbean unfortunately rates itself up amongst his more forgettable adventures (Gone In 60 Seconds
, Bad Company
, Coyote Ugly
) that are often not as bad as his mighty blockbusters (Armageddon
, Pearl Harbor
) but usually not nearly as interesting to watch or bash. With all the swashbuckling fun innate in any pirate story, director Verbinski provides ample evidence that his botch-job on the wonderful source material, Ringu
-turning it into the bland American incarnation The Ring
-was no fluke; the man sucks nearly all fun out this flick just as he muddled up the thrills in The Ring
. Considering The Curse of the Black Pearl
contains all the
pirate staples, damsels in distress, curses, skeletons, booty, swordplay, gigantic dueling ships, and the always exciting marooned-on-a-desert-island pirate punishment, Pirates
inexplicably has no life in it whatsoever. For a man who at least filled The Ring
with some stark, startling imagery (who can forget the horse leaping off the ferry boat?) Verbinski shoots nearly all his action here in constricted medium shots, showcasing his actors instead of taking a step back and letting stuntman inject Pirates’ many action sequences with some skill and vitality. Gone is the loose and fun swordplay of previous adventure romps like The Princess Bride
and there are precious few shots of mighty galleons sailing across empty seas and desolate, lonely tropical islands that cry out for someone to bury treasure deep in their sands.
While Bloom (hot off his wonderful role of Legolas in the Lord of the Rings
trilogy) and Knightley (hot off the disgraceful feel-good hit Bend It Like Beckham)
are merely here to provide eye candy for the film’s young demographic, as well as building up a blockbuster resume, the existence of Geoffrey Rush, Johnny Depp and even Jonathan Pryce (in a small role) in such a trite genre piece is indeed curious. Even more curious is what this respectable canon of actors decided to do with their material at hand. While Verbinski seems set to provide the most mundane pirate film yet filmed, his actors run the gamut of possible interpretations of the genre.
The performances of the younger generation, namely Bloom and Knightley, feel heavily influenced by Verbinksi’s decision to play the film as straight and inert as possible, but the older generation clearly understands what kind of film they are in; or at least the kind of film Pirates of the Caribbean
should be. Both Rush and Pryce play their roles (
as an undead pirate captain and English governor, respectively) gleefully, embodying the extravagant over-the-top outlandishness of good old fashioned pirate mythology. Rush gets a hat three times too big for his head, Pryce gets a wig that goes down to his waist, and both actors do their best not just to overact, but to genuinely try to fit into the roles of classic exaggerated pirate performances.
Their attempts to lighten Verbinksi’s perpetually dull humor would be successful if they themselves were not topped by the Oscar-worthy antics of Johnny Depp. Bobbing and weaving like a drunken boxer and prettied up in the strangest of pirate costumes, Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow will henceforth be recognized as a classic performance of the utmost hamminess. If Pryce and Rush energetically bite in the pirate material, Depp rips right through it and comes out the other side; his performance is bizarre and surreal in an entirely unique way that pushes ham-acting to its max. That Jack Sparrow constantly brings to mind some kind of hybrid transvestite-pirate only begins to describe the kind of nasty-fun goofiness Depp invests into this otherwise completely forgettable summer movie.