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May 27, 2024

Pirates of the Caribbean: Still Waters Run Depp

By Bernie Pilarski

By Bernie and Sand Pilarski

Bernie:There is a time and place for movies that reveal the human condition, movies that expose the characters so that we see their humanity. From the relative safety of the dark, cool recesses of the theater, we vicariously sample life's dramas, and maybe we learn of our own vulnerabilities, our own prejudices, and maybe even a little of the depth of strength in our own souls. The experience moves us, changes us.

If that's what you want, go see a Meryl Streep movie.

If on the other hand, you want to plunk your money down for a couple hours of plain ole fun, you might want to see Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

Here goes (and remember to keep your hands and feet inside the theater at all times): A bunch of bad guy pirates are sentenced to a zombie-like life in which they can not die, but nor can they actually live. Although immortal, they have no physical pleasures, in large part because their bodies have rotted away to grotesque skeletons, a condition that becomes graphically exposed in the moonlight. During the day, they appear normal, at least for a scurvy batch of pirates. Now they have a chance to undo the curse, but that requires them to return some stolen gold and appease the cursers with the blood of one of the original thieves, who unfortunately died at sea, but fortunately left an offspring, and hence a handy source of blood.

The offspring (Orlando Bloom) is in love with a girl (Keira Knightly) whom he can not have because he is a pedestrian blacksmith and she the Governor's daughter, herself pursued by the Royal Navy Captain in charge of security. Enter Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), the former captain of the pirate ship who had been left for dead on a desert island by his mutinous crew before they stole the tainted treasure. The pirates kidnap the Governor's daughter, believing erroneously that she is the needed offsping, and Bloom and Depp form a tenuous alliance to rescue the girl and regain control of the pirate ship.

The film works largely because of the fine acting of Depp as Jack Sparrow and a strong performance by Geoffrey Rush as the mutinous Captain Barbossa, Sparrow's former first mate and now the leader of the cursed pirates. Depp gives a convincing performance of a wonderfully bizarre character, and remains perfectly in character throughout the movie. I've seen other actors attempt such portrayals, and watched as their performance "drifts" over the course of the movie. I remember a George Peppard character inexplicably losing his southern accent somewhere in the middle of the film.

And to my surprise, Orlando Bloom can in fact act. Don't bet any money on an Oscar just yet, but Orlando did okay. He reminds me a bit of Schwarzenegger. You know, put into movies for his looks, then over time proves that he can after a fashion, act, even if he'll never appear in a Meryl Streep movie.

Pirates of the Carribean is a funny, technically savvy, old fashioned matinee romp. And based on the size of the crowd at the theater and the applause at the end of the movie, looks like this is going to be another summer biggie.

Sand: Let me see, how many kids did I know growing up who didn't want to be swashbuckling pirates? Well, maybe one or two whose parents kept them in a closet in bubble wrap, but a ride down a creek on a makeshift raft would have cured that. Pirates of the Caribbean took me right back to that glorious sense of adventure and mischief I felt at age nine when a friend and I found a little punt with a side missing and insanely poled it out onto the river. Steal a sailing ship? Let's go! Where's my sword, and be prepared for me to say "Arrrh!" a lot!

When I heard that Johnny Depp was going to be in the movie, I simply had to see it, just to see what the man would do. Depp makes me nervous, because I never know if I'll even recognize him. I think he's a chameleon masquerading as a human. And true to his fashion, had his name not been mentioned, I wouldn't have guessed this was the same actor as "Ichabod Crane". Playing Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates, Depp weaves and totters with affected limp hand gestures, sighs and bats eyes heavy with makeup, and takes every misfortune personally and turns them into triumphs. He's bizarre and wonderful. He's a mess, and he's so smooth. He's a villainous hero, and a heroic villain. Without him, the movie would have been a ho-hum matinee special effects display, but with him? Where do I sign up to be a pirate again?

Interestingly enough, in an interview with http://www.ComingSoon.net , Depp said that part of the character of Captain Jack came from his childhood admiration for the cartoon character Pepe Le Peu, the skunk who could never believe that lady housecats thought he stunk. Yes, I can see this in the movie. Captain Jack never believes that anyone could really dislike him, or that his plans will fail.

The effects are very, very, very good. Grubby pirates turn into rotting skeletons when moonlight hits them, and fight scenes in and out of moonlit shadows are meticulously magical. If I was a child of nine again, I'd have nightmares, for sure, and eye suspiciously any gold jewelry lest it, too, be accursed Aztec gold.

Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom play the romantic interest very pleasantly. Both are good-looking, Knightly's "Elizabeth" secretly having a passion for pirating, Bloom's "Will Turner" portraying a faithful adoring friend with a weary naivete that says, "I just want to save the girl!" Sure, it's a formula romance, but hand Will a sword and Elizabeth a blunt object, and they show that they both can be action heroes, too.

And then there's The Black Pearl, the pirate ship with black sails and a skull-and-crossbones flag, armed to the teeth to lay waste to any coastal town or sink any opposing vessel! She's faster than any other ship, more powerful, and haunted not only by the accursed undead pirates, but by Captain Jack's heart, as she was stolen from him by her mutinous crew long before.

I came out of the theater with a big grin on my face. Pirates of the Caribbean is a perfect matinee choice for an adult who is at heart still nine years old. That would be me, so this film gets a "Yes, yes, yes!" in my book.

Article © Bernie Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2003-07-14
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