Hollywood doesn't have the best of batting averages when it comes to pirate films. After the film Cutthroat Island barely squeaked out $11 million dollars gross in 1995 on a production budget of $92 million dollars the buzz around Hollywood was that pirate movies had a box office curse of their very own. Fast forward 8 years and enter the Walt Disney Company who decided to try their luck with a $125 million dollar special effect filled pirate move based loosely on one of their most popular rides in the Disneyland and Disney World theme parks. The result is Pirates of the Caribbean (which had moniker 'The Curse of The Black Pearl' tacked on close to release in hopes of a sequel).
The stakes couldn't be higher. Pirates of the Caribbean is the first film ever released under the Walt Disney Pictures brand to receive higher than a PG rating (the film is rated PG-13), and the team assembled to make the film is a virtual Who's who of hot properties: Director Gore Verbinski had a huge hit last year with the spook fest The Ring, Writers Terry Rossio & Ted Elliott were the writing team behind Shrek, Actor Johnny Depp is so extremely selective in his roles no one would ever imagine he'd do a Disney film, Orlando Bloom is fresh off the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, Geoffrey Rush has at least one Academy Award under his belt, and Keira Knightley has become a hot property after her performance in the run away indie hit Bend It Like Beckham. This 'dream team' was paired up with the best and brightest of Industrial Light and Magic to give one big go at defeating the box office pirate movie curse and perhaps create a new franchise for Disney.
An amazing movie Pirates of the Caribbean isn't, but Verbinski and company have succeeded in delivering an extremely enjoyable and entertaining summer movie. In a film filled with special effects and gigantic set pieces it's really the performances that stick out most. Geoffrey Rush is simply amazing as Pirate Captain Barbossa, he manages to go far beyond the caricature of a Pirate and create a strong villain who is also sympathetic and at times humorous. Also fantastic is Keira Knightley who shows a depth and range in this film that is sure to get noticed. Orlando Bloom also does a great job and his chemistry with Knightley really helps carry the film.
But of all the performances in Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp is by far the most enigmatic. I still am not sure how I feel about his performance, either it's one of the worst pirate performances I've ever seen or one of the best, and at times I think both. Depp stars at Captain Jack Sparrow, a down and out pirate who gets along on his ingenuity, blind luck and little else. Depp does a great job of creating a likeably flawed character one which you root to both get in and out of trouble. Depp seems to be having a ball with Sparrow and his energy injects a great deal of fun into the film but Depp uses a strange accent and mannerisms while can only be described as what it would be like if Keith Richards were a pirate.
Fans of the theme park ride will be happy to hear that there are several very clear homages in the film to the ride and more than once someone breaks out into the song 'yo ho, yo ho a Pirate's life for me'. But Pirates of The Caribbean isn't all fun and games and one of the biggest issues I have with the film is that it just isn't for kids. Why Disney decided to release this movie under their Walt Disney Pictures banner is beyond me. Although it's nowhere near as terrifying/violent as Verbinski's The Ring (which also received a PG-13 rating), it is a film which WILL scare young children. If you've got kids who are begging you to take them to this film, I'd highly recommend you go by yourself and judge if it's something you feel your kids are old enough for. I'm convinced that Verbinski must be able to works some sort of magic with the ratings board, as Pirates of The Caribbean is much closer to an 'ARRRRR' rating than PG-13.
But if you are an adult and like a good pirate movie then Pirates of The Caribbean is definitely a summer movie ride worth taking. At its heart it's a film with thrills, chills, adventure and romance - what more can you ask for?