Pirates of the Carribean
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // R // July 8, 2003
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 12, 2003
Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

"Pirates of the Carribean" is simply a movie that doesn't know when to quit. It's fun, it's entertaining, it's technically marvelous...but it also passes a point where it could have easily ended and just keeps going. The film was certainly a risky venture for parent company Disney, who had never released a film under the Disney banner with a PG-13 rating. Far more dangerous than that was the idea of a pirate movie - especially given the fact that "Cutthoat Island", the 1992 picture starring Geena Davis, is considered one of the biggest money-losers in cinema history.

"Pirates", however, has a lot to like, including the story (written by Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio of "Shrek" fame). The film stars Keira Knightley as Elisabeth, the daughter of a British governor (Jonathan Pryce). She came in contact with a near-drowned boy named Will (Orlando Bloom) years ago, and took his necklace, thinking he was a pirate. Flash to present day, as drunken captain/pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) comes ashore, only to get himself mixed up with the local guards and both Elisabeth and Will. Elisabeth is getting married to some stuffy guy she doesn't care for, but really likes Will. Will, despite being a good and rather courageous swordfighter, can't bring himself to tell her that, gee, he kinda likes her, too.

Oh, and then there are the pirates, lead by Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). They happen to be cursed, leading them to scour the landscape looking for the last piece of the cursed gold they stole, which happens to be Elisabeth's necklace. She's taken, Will follows, Jack gets dragged along when he confesses that he knows how to catch the pirate's ship, the Black Pearl. Problem? The pirates are cursed and happen to be skeletons/already dead. Fighting with them...well, not real easy.

All of this matters little, simply because Johnny Depp is a force of nature. The movie begins to fall flat when Depp leaves the screen and he steals every scene he's in. His Sparrow is a fascinating creation, clearly inspired by his "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" performance. An odd, often extremely hilarious portrayal, Depp peppers his performance with goofy grins and strange hand gestures that suggest an insect trying to sense if there's danger present. Depp's timing here really is wonderful; he has an off-beat way of hitting some of these lines that are laugh-out-loud funny. There's also some marvelous reaction shots scattered throughout the picture. Knightley makes for a tough, attractive heroine who makes up her own mind and saves her own self. Bloom is good in the film's most straightforward role.

Technically, this is a stellar feature, as well. Whoever did the CGI did a terrific job! Despite some dark moments, the CGI is extremely detailed and seamless. The film's cinematography is moody, dark and often dazzling; this is not a bright, perky Disney-ish looking feature. The fights start to become a bit repetitive towards the end, but they're well-choreographed, especially an early duel between Depp and Bloom that seemed somewhat inspired by Hong Kong cinema.

Er, but there's the running time. "Pirates of the Carribean" is a 134-minute film that feels like a 145-minute film that could have been a 120-minute film. It's entertaining, don't get me wrong - however, most in the audience will likely figure out exactly how it's going to end by the second half. When the picture hits the last quarter, the fights start to become a bit much and the film goes back and forth between sides one too many times. There's also some repetitive jokes, including a cursed pirate who loses part of his face again and again and again.

Despite its flaws, "Pirates" proved to be a lot of fun. It has a good sense of humor, well-done action and strong performances. It's certainly one of the most fun films I've seen this Summer.

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