PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN almost captures the rollicking, merry spirit of the old pirate movies that Hollywood used to make. Johnny Depp gives an inventive performance as a rogue pirate, with spirited help from Orlando Bloom of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and Keira Knightly from BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM as the swashbuckling hero and heroine, and Geoffrey Rush as the archetypal pirate villain.
Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow, whose life is turned upside down when his nemesis, the wily Captain Barbossa, played by Rush, steals his ship, the Black Pearl. Years later, Sparrow finds his way to Port Royal, where he’s promptly placed in irons, but not without a struggle. Barbossa and his men interrupt Sparrow’s scheduled hanging when they raid the port and kidnap the Governor’s beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, played by Keira Knightly.
Elizabeth’s childhood friend, Will Turner, played by Orlando Bloom, joins forces with Sparrow to commandeer a ship in a gallant attempt to rescue her and recapture the Black Pearl. Pursuing them is Commodore Norrington, a debonair officer who seeks Elizabeth’s hand in marriage. Unknown to everyone, a cursed Aztec treasure has doomed Barbossa and his crew to live as walking dead men, who appear as living skeletons in the moonlight.
Johnny Depp gives a quirky, but delightful, performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. Instead of portraying his character as a swashbuckling Errol Flynn type, he acts as if he’s always slightly crazy or tipsy. He does, however, always have one thing on his mind – how to get his ship back, by hook or by crook. The Black Pearl represents freedom to Jack, and this hope for freedom encourages him to be clever.
Depp’s eccentric performance might have sunk a lesser movie, but it actually leaves room for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly to push the heroic aspects of Will and Elizabeth’s characters. Elizabeth shows concern for others by offering herself as a hostage if Barbossa and his men will leave the town alone. Will is madly in love with Elizabeth, and he risks everything to rescue her. Early in the movie, he and Depp have a brilliant sword fighting scene. Bloom and Knightly are rising stars. Their strong performances help keep the movie going, even when the story lags.
A pirate movie wouldn’t be a pirate movie without a sneaky villain. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN has one in Captain Barbossa, played to the hilt by the talented Geoffrey Rush. Rush relishes his role with larcenous glee. Although the movie lacks a truly despicable villain, which may lessen the sense of jeopardy for some viewers, Rush’s performance adds to the movie’s fun spirit.
Guided by the sensibilities of incredibly successful producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski has finally crafted an entertaining movie that might stand the test of time. He inserts a lighthearted, often comical, mood into the movie that suits the story and the characters. This spirit of fun may attract many repeat viewers, despite the poor track record of recent pirate movies. Then again, it might not be enough to secure a lengthy run.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN has generated some controversy, because it is the first Disney movie to be released with a PG-13 rating.
In an interview with MOVIEGUIDE®, Bruckheimer indicated that he thought the Ratings Board was being a little too strict with his movie, despite its action violence and scary skeletons. He pointed out that the movie doesn’t have any strong foul language, sex, or sexual nudity in it. He and Disney decided to release the movie with the rating anyway, because they didn’t really want to cut any of the skeleton scenes or violent scenes that the Ratings Board said qualified the movie for a PG-13 rating instead of a PG. “The film might be too intense for a six-year-old,” he added.
Another controversy for Bible-believing Christians and Jews is the Aztec curse that has doomed Captain Barbossa and his men to be living skeletons. The pagan, occult aspect of this part of the movie spoils its moral, redemptive elements, which also could have been much stronger, even with the curse and the skeletons left in the story. A stronger ending might have fixed this problem, or greatly reduced it.
Still, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is a swashbuckling jolly good time at the movies. Full of humor, wit, and derring do, it’s a fun ride on the high seas of adventure, all from the comfortable safety of your plush theater chair.
(C, BB, PaPa, OO, L, VV, N, AA, D, M) Light redemptive worldview with some moral elements but also with some strong pagan and occult elements; a couple British obscenities and about two light exclamatory profanities; plenty of action violence and some scary violence including images of hanged bodies, much sword fighting, pistols fired pointblank at people, explosions, pirates storm through town, living skeleton men frighten young woman, skeleton men attack soldiers and other people, young man almost drowns, and small cuts on hands to remove curse; no sex scenes but pirates hang around with loose women in one scene; woman in old-fashioned underwear, female cleavage, and upper male nudity; alcohol use and drunkenness; no smoking; and, piracy and moral relativism such as talk about being a “good” bad man.