Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

It could have been worse, but that's no excuse. Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Peal is a $125 million Jerry Bruckheimer epic that drags on for an unconscionable 143 minutes and buries its treasures — mainly Johnny Depp in eye shadow and dreads as Captain Jack Sparrow — in briny cliches.

The pirate jinx is legendary: fond memories of Captain Blood, Treasure Island, and The Crimson Pirate wiped out by the scurvy Cutthroat Island, Pirates and Hook. Things don't bode well for a PG1-3 Disney movie that began as a theme-park ride. Depp's woozy gay blade (based, he says, on Keith Richards) helps a blacksmith (Orlando Bloom, stuck in hero mode) rescue his lady (Keira Knightley) from the evil Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and winds up fighting CGI pirate skeletons, a scary touch that suits director Gore Verbinski (The Ring). There's a splash of humor from Shrek writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, but this script needed buckets. Compensations include Knightley (Bend It Like Beckham), who lives up to her rep as the sexiest tomboy beanpole on the planet. Rush bites merrily into the pirate patois — he can drag out the word agreeeeed for several syllables. And Depp swans through this swashbuckler with a scene-stealing gusto unseen since Marlon Brando in Mutiny on the Bounty. Depp is comic dynamite, but this plodding, repetitive bore should walk the plank for timidly refusing to light his fuse.

From The Archives Issue 929: August 21, 2003