Been dreaming of your childhood jaunts to Disneyland lately, but can’t quite afford a trip to Anaheim? Well, Walt Disney Pictures has made it a little bit easier to live the action of one of its favorite attractions vicariously through its new movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
Swashbuckling adventures abound when a young blacksmith, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), teams up with the (in)famous pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in order to rescue the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). Swann has been kidnapped by the cursed pirate crew of the Black Pearl, led by the excessively creepy (in a good way) Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
The story is surprisingly complex for a Disney picture, mingling pirate lore with British rule of Caribbean islands and stories of Aztec gold, but it makes the adventure and the many swordfights worthwhile.
In fact, the plentiful swordfights are varied and engaging, especially when the good pirates battle the cursed pirates inside of a cave. Whenever the cursed pirates step into a pool of moonlight, they transform into an eerie skeleton crew, reminiscent of opening scenes on the Disneyland attraction.
The film stands alone from the ride, however, although fans will enjoy the general pirates theme and a few insider jokes tossed in for good measure.
Besides a couple verses of the “A Pirate’s Life for Me” song, a group of jailed pirates attempt to lure the jail dog toward them with the prison keys and a skeleton pirate takes a swig of a brightly colored beverage, allowing the audience to watch the liquid trickle down his insides.
The “Pirates” adventure wouldn’t be complete, of course, without the leading cast of characters.
Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow is scene-stealing. He puts together a perfect combination of pirate personality, complete with quirky behavior and a wavering level of competency that both amuses and endears the character to the audience. Meanwhile, Geoffrey Rush appears to have been born to play the role of an evil pirate, which he proves with his voice and demeanor in portraying Barbossa. He even sounds like the stereotypical pirate, while still managing to be unique.
Knightley, only 17 when the film began shooting, stands out as one tough chick, facing both the toughest pirates around and the rudest British soldiers in the Caribbean, a lot of the time while wearing a corset.
Rounding out the leading cast is Bloom, whose sweet face and good intentions bring some heart to the pirate world. And he even gets the girl.
Of course, the film wouldn’t be complete without the expansive pirate ships and hidden rocky coves. The sets, including the British-ruled Caribbean island, are all tastefully done and, again, are reminiscent of sets on the Disneyland ride. The music also helps create the ambience that settles as adventuresome, humorous and scary throughout the entire film.
All of this, combined with Gore Verbinski’s direction and the superb special effects (the skeleton pirate crew is actually believable!) makes “Pirates” the ultimate good-time movie experience.
Of course, you might want to go to Disneyland after watching it, but that’s okay. “The Haunted Mansion,” starring Eddie Murphy and also based on a hit Disneyland attraction, comes out this Thanksgiving.