Review Date: 7/19/03
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Pryce
A thoroughly entertaining popcorn flick entry in Disney's bizarre and puzzling trilogy of films based on theme park attractions. After the sheer horror of "The Country Bears," one could only imagine that the film adaptation of "The Enchanted Tiki Room" would be next. Fortunately, "Pirates" can stand on its own as a fun and silly swashbuckling adventure even without the Disney source material. The story is your typical formulaic love triangle complicated by class barriers. Elizabeth Swann (radiant Keira Knightley) is the governor's beautiful daughter and the object of affection for both an upstanding military man named Norrington and a common blacksmith named Will Turner (impishly cute Orlando Bloom). Elizabeth is pushed into a marriage with Commodore Norrington, whom she has no feelings other than duty for, and harbors a secret crush on Will (though she won't admit it to herself). Will loves Elizabeth desperately, but as a commoner he can't even approach her. Within ten minutes you know exactly where the movie is going, and then Johnny Depp swaggers onto the scene as the laughably charismatic Captain Jack Sparrow to mix things up a bit. His appearance sets a sequence of events into motion, involving a pirate ship of damned souls known as "The Black Pearl." The pirates (led by a an appropriately maniacal Geoffrey Rush) are looking for something, and the main characters all play a key role to achieving that goal. Swashbuckling ensues, followed by kissing.
The film quite clearly belongs to Johnny Depp and his outrageous portrayal of the questionably balanced Capt. Jack Sparrow. He chews through the scenery as if it were his last meal. He's also quite a hottie. For a guy in his forties, Mr. Depp is looking mighty fine... Orlando Bloom challenges Depp for the hottie factor in the film and is quite cute in an uptight and innocent kind of way. The Legolas fan club was in full force at the theater and was swooning accordingly. But I think it was Keira Knightley who impressed me the most. As a dead ringer for Uma Thurman, she's more than just a really, really, pretty face, and her delivery is full of expression and tangible feeling. The future certainly looks bright for this talented 18 year old actress. Geoffrey Rush is also quite entertaining as Capt. Sparrow's nemesis.
The action and effects are entertaining and well done, but pretty much the status quo for action movies these days and not overly impressive. The story is also full of logic holes and questionable character traits, but on par for a family oriented summer adventure film. It's also worth noting that this is the first PG-13 film to carry the Disney branding, and as such, it's a little more violent than you might expect. The tie-in's with the theme park ride are also quite amusing, as several scenes from the ride show up throughout the film in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, including the delightfully delirious "yo-ho" song. In fact, the whole film is rather tongue-in-cheek, which makes it much easier to just sit back, turn off your brain, and enjoy.