Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Rating: B-

Dir: Gore Verbinski
Star: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush

I had qualms going in, given the last Disney film based on a ride. Fortunately, this won’t do to Rush’s reputation, what The Country Bears Movie did to Christopher Walken’s. Still, an odd choice for The Ring‘s director as a follow-up; this is a straightforward, uncomplicated adventure. Depp steals the show as Jack Sparrow, a pirate who escaped a desert island by lassoing sea-turtles together with rope braided from his back hair. Er, allegedly. Alongside such a character, heroic blacksmith Will Turner (Bloom) seems bland, despite his pursuit of his love Elizabeth, kidnapped by undead buccaneer Barbossa (Rush), who believes she is the key to escape an eternal curse placed on him and his crew for stealing Aztec gold. Okay: relatively straightforward…at 144 minutes long, there’s a fair bit of time to fill.

Chris + I were trying to work out if I’d been on the ride – I remember the shop but not the attraction. She’s very familiar with it – a rest-stop on many trips to Disneyland/world – and while there are plenty of crossovers, you need no familiarity with the theme-park version. The skeletal effects are nicely done; being visible only in moonlight leads to some cool transformations, though the battle scenes are overlong; after all, why bother fighting an enemy who can’t die? But mostly, it’s the characters that make the film work, down to minor ones like the scurvy swab with a glass eye he keeps popping out. Enough dental work for an army of orthodontists, and more than enough fun to amuse most other viewers.