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Tue July 8, 2003
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Jade
Matey, we have the coolest pirate film of the summer!
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Jade"
"Shiver me timbers!"
Matey, we have the coolest pirate film of the summer with Gore Verbinski's ("The Ring") "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Jade." The coolest pirate of all time may be Johnny Depp's ("Chocolat") captain Jack Sparrow, a fey swashbuckler with androgynous mannerisms and a slightly besotted mien possibly from too much wine or just an overactive actor's imagination.
At any rate, Depp steals the booty and the film in a gracious act of saving the summer from the absence of any unforgettable performance. Verbinski clearly let Depp do what he wanted, and he did. Fortunately, unlike Marlon Brando on the loose, Depp can contain his genius and entertain while still showing formidable talent of the very best in film today.
Inspired by the Disney theme park ride of the same name, "Pirates" tells of Sparrow pursuing the ghost ship Black Jade, run by a real skeleton crew and headed by the sordid Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). They seek to break an ancient curse by kidnapping the luscious Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley, "Bend It like Beckham"). Most of this is parody of all the pirate films ever made, right down to the talking parrot on the buccaneer's shoulder, swordfights, treasure coves, and a post-modern pirate's code interpreted as just "guidelines." Even Orlando Bloom as Knightley's love interest looks like a young Errol Flynn.
With over 600 visual effects shots as well, Verbinski succeeds in making a rollicking good story while satirizing the genre at the same time. But at 143 minutes, with several returns to the same locations and a tedious father-daughter tiff, "Pirates" is too long and repetitious. Without the watchable Depp, it could have been the sunken "Cutthroat Island" of mid-nineties infamy.
The bard as always catches the cavalier spirit:
"Pirates may make cheap pennyworths of their pillage,
And purchase friends, and give to courtezans,
Still revelling like lords till all be gone . . . ."
As it is, in a summer of mediocrity, "Pirates of the Caribbean" is worth seeing for its unpretentious fun for the family, just like Disneyland.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org on Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.