It’s hard to remember how great this movie is, because the sequels were so catastrophic. I’m completist when it comes to DVD collections, but I own only Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man’s Chest. Likewise I will never ever own The Phantom Menace. If I ever get it as a gift I will use it as a coaster.

The only thing about this movie that doesn’t hold up is the animation. The zombie-pirates look a little goofy now, in a way that they didn’t when it came out.

What do I love about it?

  • It never stops. Even when you think you’re going have a slow, serious moment, right after the Interceptor explodes, Orlando Bloom immediately swims across to disabuse you of your misapprehension. This is a movie written by hummingbirds on speed, and it is fantastic.
  • We’re sick of Johnny Depp’s mincing weirdness now, but it’s new in this, and it’s well-deployed and hilarious. If you don’t still cry with laughter about the whole “why is the rum gone?” sequence, you have no joy in your soul. There’ll be no living with her after this, indeed.
  • Orlando Bloom is still super hot, and his air of bewildered self-righteousness is, as always, his best asset. He even gives some good side-eye a few times. And that hat!
  • Norrington really comes into his own in the third movie, with his drunkenness, his hopeless but blameless love of Elizabeth, and his badassery in the face of Davy Jones’s crew. That said, Jack Davenport puts a surprising amount of exasperated verve into a pretty one-note character, and Norrington’s tedium is itself a lesson in drollery. [Side note: I was trying to explain who Jack Davenport is, and began with “He plays Commodore Norrington.” At that point I was cut off by my interlocutor, who started shouting at me that he did not watch as many movies about old boats as I do, because he is a normal human being, and I had to finish, somewhat lamely, “…in Pirates of the Caribbean.” At which point my friend subsided in embarrassment.]
  • Almost all the jokes land. Pintel and Ragetti are amazing (Mackenzie Crook never fails), Royal Navy officers are convincingly stuffy for comic effect, and Geoffrey Rush perfectly walks the tightrope between menace and hilarity. The corset line crashes and burns every time, but, for nearly two and a half hours, the laughs keep coming.

Director: Gore Verbinski
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes
Score: 4/5

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