Director: Gore Verbinski

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Most of Pirates of the Caribbean quickly faded from memory because it was ultimately an unmemorable film, but I am left with some disappointed impressions. Several friends really loved it, even bought it on DVD, but I suspect more for their children than themselves. When a film has such good animated-corpse effects but is still purely upbeat & happy & suitable for the littlest ones, you just know the stamp of Disney ruined any chance at suspense.

Johnny Depp is an actor I decided was brilliant when he was the titular character of What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1992). He long specialized in fey strange young men who got a little monotonous after ten films, but were well played, the type epitomized & exaggerated in Edward Scissorhands (1990) a role that presaged his future roles as a clown in clown make-up, but Edward at least had soul.

In recent years he began playing far too many clown characters -- or caricatures. He's a clown-character in Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) for instance, & as Willie Wonka & Captain Jack Sparrow, he is literally a clown in clown make-up. Captain Jack is what we in Seattle would call a SeaFair Pirate, clowns who run around playing at mayhem in a parade, except the SeaFair Pirates are scarier.

Being a clown isn't necessarily bad, Bobcat Goldthwait was wonderful as Shakes the Clown (1992), in a kind of alternate world where clowns form races of humanity. But Depp's clown characters are increasingly the wardrobe & make-up, & he brings nothing to these costumes as an actor.

When Banderos starred in Mask of Zorro (1998), he was really convincing as an old-time-Errol-Flynn type swashbuckler, but even when Johnny Depp rushes to the aid of the maiden & wisecracks at his foes, he comes off as a retard who was turned loose in a wardrobe department full of clown costumes rather than swashbuckler gear, & no one on the set had the nerve to tell him right from the start, you know Johnny, your whole approach to this role is basically kind of stupid.

Even critics who liked the silly-ass film could find nothing more interesting to say about it than "Depp imitated Keith Richards for this role," failing to note that any film that has as its height of interest a Keith Richards impersonation must not have much going on inside the story proper.

Skeletons & corpses swordfighting is cool enough this should have been sure-thing entertainment. But the film delivered a gutless, suspense-free zone that made "family film" an insult, & no surprise it was based on a Disney ride & not a story.

I am almost bewildered how well-liked the film was even by people who should know better -- not completely bewildered, since any world that permits Chris Kattan an acting career is a world populated by idiots who'd be wildly enthused even just sitting in any random mud puddle. But Pirates had elements that should've been at the very least fool-proof minor escapism. Instead, it failed as action, failed as a story, & most certainly failed on every level of characterization.

It was all noise & no content, & it meandered so badly toward the end, seeking blindly for a climax, that it was a relief to just have the dumb thing finally end. But as an extended advertisement for a carnival ride at Disneyland, two more were planned even before the box-office receipts were tallied on the first.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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