A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
There's a nice little 90-minute B movie trapped inside the 143 minutes of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," a movie that charms the audience and then outstays its welcome. Although the ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel, the movie feels like it already includes the sequel; maybe that explains the double-barreled title. It's a good thing that Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp are on hand to jack up the acting department. Their characters, two world-class goofballs, keep us interested even during entirely pointless swordfights.
Pointless? See if you can follow me here. Capt. Jack Sparrow (Depp) has a deep hatred for Capt. Barbossa (Rush), who led a mutiny aboard Sparrow's pirate ship, the Black Pearl, and left Capt. Jack stranded on a deserted island. Barbossa and his crew then ran afoul of an ancient curse that turned them into the Undead. By day they look like normal if dissolute humans, but by the light of the moon, they're revealed as skeletal cadavers. Now here's the important part: Because they're already dead, they cannot be killed. Excuse me for supplying logic where it is manifestly not wanted, but doesn't that mean there's no point in fighting them? There's a violent battle at one point between the Black Pearl crew and sailors of the Royal Navy, and unless I am mistaken the sailors would all eventually have to be dead because the skeletons could just keep on fighting forever, until they won. Yes? The only reason I bring this up is that the battle scenes actually feel as if they go on forever. It's fun at first to see a pirate swordfight, but eventually it gets to the point where the sword-clashing, yardarm-swinging and timber-shivering get repetitious. I also lost count of how many times Jack Sparrow is the helpless captive of both the British and the pirates, and escapes from the chains/brig/noose/island.
And yet the movie made me grin at times, and savor the daffy plot, and enjoy the way Depp and Rush fearlessly provide performances that seem nourished by deep wells of nuttiness. Depp in particular seems to be channeling a drunken drag queen, with his eyeliner and the way he minces ashore and slurs his dialogue ever so insouciantly. Don't mistake me: This is not a criticism, but admiration for his work. It can be said that his performance is original in its every atom. There has never been a pirate, or for that matter a human being, like this in any other movie. There's some talk about how he got too much sun while he was stranded on that island, but his behavior shows a lifetime of rehearsal. He is a peacock in full display.
Consider how boring it would have been if Depp had played the role straight, as an Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks (Sr. or Jr.) might have. To take this material seriously would make it unbearable. Capt. Sparrow's behavior is so rococo that other members of the cast actually comment on it. And yet because it is consistent and because you can never catch Depp making fun of the character, it rises to a kind of cockamamie sincerity.