Maybe some of you recall being dragged to pantos as kids. I only went once. It was Puss In Boots (how appropriate) and I remember the day because a large kipper landed in my lap and I was supposed to be thrilled. Pirates Of The Caribbean has a lot in common with childhood pantos -“ big hats, big boots, lots of mincing and plenty of make-up. Director Gore Verbinski, who made his name as a director of large-budget commercials, then made his feature debut with Mouse Hunt followed by The Mexican and The Ring, looks like he has had a whale of a time shouting aye, me hearties while pretending to sail the high seas whilst recreating a Walt Disney theme park ride. We’ve had plenty of movies based on video games so why not a theme park ride, especially if you have the production might of Jerry Bruckheimer backing you up?
Pirates Of The Caribbean was written by Terry Elliott and Terry Rossio, the team who brought Shrek and The Mask Of Zorro to the screen. (Elliott and Rossio are currently working on Shrek 2 so we can only hope the form they exhibited in the original is maintained in the sequel.)
Actually I was prepared for something a whole lot more dire than Verbinski’s contribution to the swashbuckle genre. Pirates Of The Caribbean, conveniently subtitled Curse Of The Black Pearl to allow for a possible sequel, is a return to those swashbuckling, ridiculous films of old when Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks swung through the rigging to rescue damsels in distress and grab the gold.
Johnny Depp is Captain Swallow and plays a totally camp version of Keith Richards, the famously wasted Rolling Stones guitarist, crossed with Douglas Fairbanks speaking with an Essex accent. Depp says he modelled his character on Richards because pirates were the rock stars of their day. He added a touch of the Looney Tunes character Pepe Le Pew for special effect. It is Depp’s best performance in ages. Geoffrey Rush plays the evil pirate Barbossa and of course gets the biggest hat and the most rotten teeth. Seventeen-year-old Keira Knightley (Bend It Like Beckham) plays the love interest with zest despite the corset and the problems she had with sea sickness. Orlando Bloom (Lord Of The Rings) gets the dull end of the stick as he has to play it straight as Depp’s sidekick.
Pirates Of The Caribbean is at least 45 minutes too long but is still rollicking good fun which both adults and older kiddies can enjoy. The special effects are extraordinary, it’s just a shame the dialogue and the performances aren’t that memorable. Still, for those of you wishing to revisit the adventure movies of your youth this is the film for you.