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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (***)
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Written by Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Principal Cast
Johnny Depp -- Jack Sparrow
Geoffrey Rush -- Barbossa
Orlando Bloom -- Will Turner
Keira Knightley -- Elizabeth Swann
Jack Davenport -- Norrington
Jonathan Pryce -- Governor Weatherby Swann
Lee Arenberg -- Pintel
Mackenzie Crook -- Ragetti
Damian O'Hare -- Lt. Gillette
Giles New -- Murtogg
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

It is lots of fun, some very good Monty Python-type humor, and then a little more Monty Python-type humor, and then just a wee bit too much Monty Python-type humor, but still a highly enjoyable experience.

There are a few quibbles with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, such as the difficulty of getting just little enough air in an inverted boat for it to sink, but the intelligence of the writers, who wrote the even-better The Mask of Zorro, shines through. I like their respect for the stubborn refusal of inanimate objects to take sides. And there are some clever changes rung on the curse and its effects.

Johnny Depp is a fine figure of a pirate, and the boy and girl leads are not too sappy.

Pirate movies have a bad reputation -- the last really successful pirate movie was Walt Disney's Treasure Island (1950), which I watched recently on DVD. It holds up well, but not as well as the book, which is as much fun as Have Spacesuit, Will Travel or The Hobbit. Treasure Island is a great book for kids to give their parents to read after they finish Harry Potter.

Of the many unsuccessful pirate movies, I've liked more than a few. Roman Polanski's Pirates is at least as good his The Fearless Vampire Killers, though the latter has a much larger reputation. "You want to eat the frog?" The Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt Pirates of Penzance has some fine and funny singing. "With cat-like tread..." Steven Spielberg's Hook brought tears to my eyes for all the right reasons, as long as it was set in London -- admittedly once it got to the island it was pretty much of a mess, but the same could be said of Sir James Barrie's play. The main reason Peter Pan is better than Hook is that Cyril Ritchard makes a much better pirate than Dustin Hoffman. "No, by carbonate-of-soda, no... !"

I even enjoyed Cutthroat Island.

The best modern novels of the sea are by Patrick O'Brian, a couple of which are the basis for a Russell Crowe vehicle later this year. And one of the best things about these novels is the authentic detail, especially as concerns ships and sailing. I don't think the detail in Pirates of the Caribbean is quite so authentic. It may be -- I don't know much about sailing myself. But when the sailors in the film shout "Hoist the mains'l tops'l and shiver the port jib, me hearties!" I'm not absolutely convinced that they know what they are talking about.

The fantasy element in the film is minor, but well thought out, essential to the plot and to its resolution.

All in all, for a movie based on an amusement park ride, Pirates of the Caribbean is much better than we have any reason to hope. For that matter, the ride's not so bad, either.

Be sure to stick around for the credit cookie.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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