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"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"

Directed by Gore Verbinski.
Written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio.
Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Geoffrey Rush.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  7/16/03 


The Year of the Action Film just keeps on rolling downhill.  This time around, the action comes courtesy of Walt Disney (of all dead people) and believe the great reviews you are seeing--“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is a solid night at the movies.

The film’s biggest problem is that it is simply too long; at 143 minutes (!), director Gore Verbinski (he redid “The Ring” from last year) needed better work from his editor, especially in the middle of the film where we get a lot of people hangin’ out on boats waiting for something to happen.  But the rest is great stuff, and I think most of the thanks can go to two entities:

1) Johnny Depp.  No one defines “up-and-down acting career” like Depp; loved “From Hell”, “Blow” sucked.  But here in “Pirates”, I felt like Depp was just having a blast playing Captain Jack Sparrow, and he does so much with just his hands and his near-drunken drawl that every time he is ABOUT to say something, I or someone in my audience was laughing out loud.  Sparrow leans around a corner, looks at something, squints and wrinkles his mustache…THEN he says something unintelligible.  He has most of the good lines, and he had so many that I struggle to remember them all.  Maybe his best comes in an exchange with Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, slightly less dreamy for the ladies this time around), when the two have a swordfight that ends with Sparrow pulling a gun on Turner:

Turner:  “You cheated!”
Sparrow [pointing at himself]:  “Uhh…pirate?”

Comedy.  It’s all about timing.  From his hilarious opening scene “high” above the masthead of his ship to his constant annoyance that people forget to call his character “Captain”, Depp looks like he showed up focused on the set of the film to turn in some great work.  I read recently that Depp based his character in part on the real-life stylings of Keith Richards; you can kind of see this with all of the slurring and the hand movement, cause that is some funny stuff.  This performance is already my second-favorite of the year after Will Ferrell’s in “Old School”, and it will be a shame that neither will be nominated for an Oscar because both are worthy of one.  (However, the upside might be that both will be nominated for Lead Actor at the 2004 MTV Movie Awards, eh??)  Mike Yac, rest in peace, my friend...

2)  The costume & makeup departments.  I’ll give Verbinski and the screenwriters (the guys that wrote “Shrek”) credit for making sure that all of the pirates are of the smarmy “DARRRR, matey!!” variety, and it is quite funny to see all of the bad guys threaten good people with “DARRR!” every time they are about to raise their swords.  But, it all comes home with the character appearances throughout the film; the makeup department, in particular, will hopefully be nominated for this work next March come Oscar time.  Have you ever seen shittier-looking teeth for a whole film?  Captain Jack Sparrow wearing the most Pirate of Pirate accessories…eyeliner???  Even the beautiful Zoe Caldana (from the shitty Britney flick “Crossroads”) is made to look rough around the edges; solid.

All of the acting is great here; Geoffrey Rush, Jonathan Pryce and Kevin McNally as Sparrow’s old pirate friend Gibbs all give you the feeling that these guys cared about the bottom line.  “Pirates” has enough of the Pirates 101 guidebook in place--drunken sailors, boosted bodices thanks to “Bend It Like Beckham” star Keira Knightley, men swinging on ropes to board ships, cannon fire, swordfights, parrots, bar fights, shootouts, a dirty monkey and lost treasure.  The film must have been expensive but from the looks of it, it was all worthwhile.

Pretty close to an Opening Weekend, were it not for the obscene running time.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09