Taken just at face value, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” has a lot going against it. First, it’s loosely based on a popular Disney theme park ride - and tagging “The Curse of the Black Pearl” after the title doesn’t soften the initial blow. Secondly, it’s a pirate movie and that particular genre hasn’t done very well in the past 10 or so years. And finally, it’s hitting theaters at the same time as every other big effects/action drama seems to have chosen to set upon audiences.
Get past all that baggage and you’ll find an original, swashbuckling adventure starring Johnny Depp as one of the most ‘interesting’ pirates ever seen on film. Depp claims his inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow came from mixing Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and the cartoon skunk, Pepe Le Pew. Interesting idea – taking a pirate and infusing in him the characteristics of one of rock and roll’s most out there stars. The Pepe Le Pew thing I don’t get, but Depp’s a genius so he must have had a reason for that bizarre choice. What ends up on screen is a pirate who staggers around like one of those Weebles I had as a kid (the toy that wobbles but doesn’t fall down). He sashays, struts, and basically Weebles his way through the film.
So what’s “Pirates” about? Basically it’s pirates stealing from pirates, pursued by pirates who stole from the British fleet who are bringing up the tail in the pursuit chain. Need something a little more in-depth than that? All right… Captain Jack Sparrow’s chasing his nemesis Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) all around the waters of the Caribbean in a quest to get back his ship, the Black Pearl (hence the movie’s title). Barbossa led a mutiny that overthrew Sparrow and deposited him on a tiny island to die. Die he didn’t and now he wants his revenge.
Sparrow’s search brings him to Port Royal and a fateful encounter with Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), daughter of Port Royal’s Governor. Though he actually did a good deed (it's Disney so pirates aren’t all bad), the British Navy and Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce) plan to string him up. Plans for his hanging are interrupted when Captain Barbossa attacks the town, kidnapping Elizabeth. Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth’s best friend since childhood, enlists the aid of Captain Sparrow to rescue her. While all that sets up the story, the most important thing to note is that there’s a curse on the crew of the Black Pearl that causes them to live forever as the undead. So if they’re the undead, how are Sparrow, Turner and the ragtag crew of misfit pirates Sparrow recruited going to fight them? Go see the movie.
Depp as Sparrow is the reason to see “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Black eyeliner, gold teeth and all, Depp’s one of the very few actors of his generation who could have pulled this off and not ended up looking like a complete idiot.
Orlando Bloom’s good as the young blacksmith who follows his heart rather than his head. His role isn’t especially fleshy, but heck it’s Orlando Bloom - a teen heartthrob who can actually act – so he makes the most of playing second fiddle to Depp.
As the object of everyone’s affection, Keira Knightley is plain and simply stunning. Knightley’s a breath of fresh air. She’s got looks, talent AND the ability to hold her own against Depp, Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush. That’s quite an accomplishment for Knightley who was just 17 when she made “Pirates” and hadn’t but a few films under her belt.