|This movie is the first film of 2003 that I would consider attending more than once in the theater. The moment the ending credits began to roll I was planning my next trip to see this film. Although the summer of 2003 has seen a few decent big-budget films released in the last few months, this is the first film that really takes the phrase "rollicking adventure" and uses it to the hilt. There's nothing worse than a film comprised of many special effects and death-defying stunts that takes itself too seriously.|
One has only to see the swashbuckling adventure, Cutthroat Island to see how an adventure film can fall flat without the proper amount of humor thrown in for brevity. That infamous film is the most recent big-budget release made about the era of high-seas pirates and that film was quite forgettable. Given the uneasy track record of pirate films, it seems like quite a gamble for the Disney studio to have placed so much money behind a picture that wasn't a "sure thing," but the bookkeepers at Disney need not be worried about the potential thinning of their doubloons as this film is the most entertaining flick on screens at the present time and box office should reflect that in the coming weeks.
Audiences will realize early on in their viewings that Pirates of the Caribbean is the "best thing yet" in a summer of no stand-out films. There is a persistent sense of humor that invades every single scene of the film and the long running time of the movie is made more enjoyable because of it. Even when things are "at their worst" for the characters, there is always somebody there to crack a joke. And given that this film was made for both young and old audiences (the pg-13 rating probably won't scare away viewers under that age; the Disney company has nothing to fear on that score), it seems a prudent move by the filmmakers that humor was a major element.
Otherwise, this film could have been dead in the water. Not only does the comedy bring to life the more serious moments (by creating a wider gulf between emotional extremes), but it also gives Johnny Depp the chance to really impress the audience with his insanity. There's no doubt that the actor either suffers from some exotic twitch or was completely taken over by his character during filming because his performance as the infamous pirate, "Jack Sparrow," is filled with equal parts adventure and humor. Which is the perfect combination for an action hero's resume. It's interesting to consider Johnny Depp an action hero, but his past choices in roles have not always been the most mainstream.
Perhaps this crazy pirate routine is about as close to normal as the actor is likely to get. His character is so off the wall that seeing Orlando Bloom (who plays blacksmith turned pirate, "Will Turner") imitate Depp's ticks and mannerisms at one point is enough to put anybody on the floor with laughter. Keira Knightley's damsel in distress character, "Elizabeth Swann," also makes a good impression as a woman who can hold her own with a blunt object. And while viewers' minds will be occupied by spiffy performances by the entire cast (though the dialogue isn't always Shakespearean...), their view will be filled to the brim with expert costume design and set direction. By allowing the film to exist in such an interesting time period, the clash of ancient Caribbean culture and seventeenth century England becomes an interesting juxtaposition.
All the visual elements, including the make-up, costume design, and set design, seem to have been created with the phrase "over the top" in mind. Since the story itself is crammed with hilarity, seeing that infectious enthusiasm spill into the entire production ensures that the picture doesn't lack in entertainment value. It goes without saying that the pirates of the seventeenth century have been given various characteristics and cliché mannerisms (like parrots, tattoos, and the word "matey") in novels and movies produced in the last century, and every cliché in the book is included in this film.
But that's not a bad thing. All those clichés are trotted out with the expectation that including them in the film will get a laugh from the audience. And with so many comedic moments in the film, one might think the film a rather light experience, but there are indeed some more serious moments that anchor the film well. Fine performances all around from the lead stars (especially Johnny Depp's insanity) ensure that the characters are full-bodied and vibrant. There are not flat "stock" characters in Pirates mainly because of the casting. Director Gore Verbinski and his crew have combined all the elements of visual effects, comedy, casting, and set design to create a highly entertaining adventure that should sit at the top of the summer season.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.