Who'd have thought it? In a summer soaked by big-money sequels, here's a Brit-bolstered pirate movie that swaggered away with more than its fair share of the box-office bullion. And Pirates Of The Caribbean is the real deal, an inventive, swashbuckling actioner packed with high-seas heroism, boisterous rib-tickles and spectacular effects.
Embracing this treacherous genre (remember Cutthroat Island? No, thought not), The Ring helmsman Gore Verbinski and Shrek scribes Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio shuffle monkeys, plank-walking and Jolly Rogers into a winning hand of iconographic flashcards while twisting in some delightful quirks of their own. To start, these aren't your average scurvy pirates - - they're cursed zombie-werewolf crossbreeds, dissolving into rotting skeletons at moonlight's touch.
Led by cartoon villain Geoffrey Rush (chews up script, spits out scenery), they mistakenly kidnap Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) instead of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a shy swordsmith whose buccaneer blood holds the key to the curse. Turner's going to need help, that's for certain. And here comes Pirates' masterstroke: the bizarre, brilliant and bonkers Johnny Depp. Captain Jack Sparrow is an outrageous creation - - a mascaraed glam-rock rogue. All gold teeth, dreadlocks and Cock-er-nee slur, Depp's pirate swaggers through the movie stealing every frame he steps into.
Not to say there aren't plenty of holes in Verbinski's tub. Fights to the death with pirates who can't be killed can all get a tad repetitive and it's hugely overstuffed at nearly two-and-a-half hours. But when the gusts of energy and action catch its sails, there's more than enough briny fun to steer Pirates through the convoluted plot; bombastic battle scenes and some relentless visual and verbal gaggery all add up to entertainment that really marks the spot.