Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly, Kevin McNally, Stellan Skarsgaard, Tom Hollander, Jonathan Pryce, Bill Nighy
Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Adventure Violence, including Frightening Images
Like all movies that make a buck at the box office, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" got a sequel. Two, actually. Released a year apart, this and "At World's End" continued the adventures of lovebirds Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, and everyone's favorite pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow.
It's raining on the day when Will (Bloom) and Elizabeth (Knightly) are to be married. Worse still, he stood her up at the altar. But not all is as it seems. Will didn't get cold feet, he has been arrested by Lord Cutler Beckett (Hollander), who has seized control over Port Royal. He has sentenced Will and Elizabeth to the gallows for helping Jack escape execution. In exchange for their lives, Beckett wants Will to bring Jack back with his compass. Apparently, said compass (which doesn't work) will lead Beckett to Davy Jones's (Nighy) heart, which will grant him a monopoly on the sea. Thus, ending piracy.
The real star of the show, as was true of the rest of the movies in the franchise, is Johnny Depp. His loopy, totally off-the-wall portrayal of the pirate is insanely entertaining. It's one of those performances where his mere presence on screen brings a goofy grin. It's unthinkable that Michael Eisner was against Depp's portrayal, believing that it would tank the film. No one can deny that it has more or less carried the franchise. Sure, the action scenes are fun and the special effects are cool, but the real draw has been, and always will be, Johnny Depp.
Depp is in top form; Jack Sparrow is one of his favorite characters, and his joy is evident in every frame. But like the best actors, he doesn't take up all the oxygen on screen. The other actors get their chance to shine, including Orlando Bloom (who will forever by identified by this role and Legolas from "The Lord of the Rings") and Keira Knightly, Stellan Skarsgaard and a truly nasty Tom Hollander. Hollander's villain is so arrogant and malicious that you want to stick him in front of a cannon as soon as he opens his mouth.
Gore Verbinski returns to direct the sequel, and as is the case for all his movies, the film is drenched in atmosphere. That's actually part of the problem. There are times when the film gets so dark and gloomy that it breaks the goofy spell the story casts. The original did a good job of balancing horror, comedy and good old fashioned adventure, but there are times, such as the scenes on The Flying Dutchman, that are almost overkill in the scare department. They really are unsettling.
Still, this movie is a lot of fun. It's at least 15 minutes too long, but there are some truly sensational action sequences, including a half-hour segment that simply must be seen to be believed. That parts of it resemble the Three Stooges is only the beginning. Ditto for the three-way swordfight, where the object of everyone's desire is almost beside the point.
It's too long, too gloomy and some of the green screen work is clunky (watch for Jack and the Kraken at the end), but you've got lots of swordfights, skeletons and Captain Jack Sparrow. You really don't need a lot more.