Ah! Pirates and heroics, high-seas adventure and romance. This Disney film (based on an amusement park ride) is the “little” film no one expected anything of. Turns out critics and audiences alike quite underestimate its abilities. To this day, this film is still one of the biggest blockbusters and it inspired three subsequent box office hits. This title, the first in the series is by far the most memorable. It’s one of those good old-fashioned swashbucklers, and for this film, all of its moving parts just work.
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18th century Port Royal tolerates no pirates or any such shenanigans, and yet a ship that emerges from ghostly shadows encounters a recently looted and destroyed passenger ship. It’s the governor’s daughter who spots it, and the lifeless body of a boy. Around his neck, Elizabeth spies what appears the mark of a pirate in the form of a medallion, and in fear for his life, she removes it.
Some ten years later, Elizabeth (Kiera Knightly), the only child of Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce), is all grown up. With hopes that his headstrong daughter will make a match with Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport), Elizabeth’s heart has never been stirred as when she is in the presence of childhood friend Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), the man she rescued those many years ago.
But everything changes when, the brazen and infamous pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) walks into their lives, and through a twist of fate, he rescues Miss Swann, and is then arrested for his trouble.
Late that night with Jack safely locked away awaiting execution Port Royal comes under attack by the notorious Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). When the pirates break through the Governor’s mansion, they take Elizabeth as a captive which inspires Will to coordinate a rescue of his lady love… and straight to the jail cell of Captain Jack Sparrow.
What can one say about this popular movie that hasn’t already been said, and scrutinized? When the first television spots played, I remember thinking it appeared too crazy for my enjoyment. Fortunately, the rest is history. This movie is one of the best script, and includes some of the best special effect sequences from Hollywood. The comedy is funny without trying hard, and the sets are impressive. Overall, it’s a clever film beyond contrast (especially when we compare it to its successors). Suffice to say, this quirky film is as lovable as it is adventurous.
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Fortunately for us, this plot has a lot more going for it than a kidnapping. Clocking in at over two hours, it also dabbles in ancient treasure, a curse and some pretty creepy skeleton pirates. (If you think this sounds crazy, just wait until you see it on-screen.) For the life of me, even I cannot place a finger on what it is that draws the viewer in. It doesn’t have the usual pull of the film’s I see, but its characters are rich in personality. Though not a devoted Depp fan, I will concede there is no one else who can pull off the swaggering Captain Jack Sparrow. He owns this character with the most authority ever. The supporting cast helps with this pursuit, too but most of all, this movie isn’t so much about award-winning performances as its easy-going ability to be FUN!
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This film is PG13 because of swordfights, and the injuries or death of various characters. One crew is “undead” and yet cannot ever die which opens the doors to any number of scenarios. Some sequences may be frightening to younger viewers. There is sexual innuendo and the camera often sees Elizabeth in her undergarments – her gowns also display cleavage. There is some British profanity but nothing terrible. Jack doesn’t like to be without his rum
Note: this review was published in the archives five or more years earlier. Since moving to WordPress, 90% of the reviews, lists and articles need re-formats and/or other updates. Updated edits and changes to fit current formats have been made; it has also been updated with new photos, and republished.
This review was originally published November 7, 2011
Photos: Walt Disney Pictures