It's not easy for a film to offend me anymore. I've watched "The Exorcist" by myself in a dark room. I've seen Catherine Breillat's "Romance." And I've put myself through several viewings of the disturbing documentary, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills ." But by gum, "Pirates of the Caribbean" (IMDb listing) has worked its way under my skin. It's only too bad that director Gore Verbinski had to make something even more deplorable than "The Ring" in order to accomplish this feat.
I know, I know. What the hell was I expecting from a movie based on a theme park ride and released at the tail end of the summer blockbuster season? Well, that was my inital thought, too. But everyone I know who had seen "Pirates" assured me that as hard to believe as it may be, the picture was a must see. This isn't entirely off the mark, as it happens--if, like me, you're casually interested in keeping tabs on the most astonishingly joyless films ever to roll off the Hollywood assemly line.
What "Pirates" lacks in the way of foul-mouthed demons, on-screen fellatio and exposure of the American justice system at work, it more than makes up for with embarrassing "performances" by some pretty respectable actors (Johnny Depp, Jonathan Pryce, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom) and a narrative so thin you wouldn't want to be anywhere near it if it were made of ice. Come to think of it, it's probably advisable to stay clear of this thing even though it's only made of tripe. Depp does an okay job of portraying a swaggering pirate who can't decide if he's perpetually inebriated or just not very closeted, and whose accent cleverly alternates between at least two English varieties. But I'm not sure that was the objective.
Why this pointless mockery of an adventure film has to drone on beyond the two hour mark is also a mystery, almost as puzzling as the "climactic" battle sequence, in which the good guys engage in a silly bout of swordfighting with an army of undead pirates. Again, that's undead pirates. Swordfighting. With undead pirates. I guess they hope to unkill them. Brilliant. Okay, so a similar idea worked in "Jason and the Argonauts," but something (read, a pervasive lack of heart) prevents much of anything from working in "Pirates." If two people couldn't get the script right (Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio), maybe they should have hired a few more writers. It might at least have been fun to see just how damn muddled they could have made this monstrosity.
So what about all those folks who think "Pirates" is the be all and end all? What's the appeal? Two words: Depp and Bloom. Pretty faces made even prettier against the backdrop of a plot that it's impossible to care about. When it's not vomiting up cliches, "Pirates" is trying too hard to avoid them by cooking up disjointed scenarios with all the believability of the Tooth Fairy. Even as eye candy, this movie is pure misery. It limps along on its CGI crutch and doesn't even manage to make us sympathize with its condition. If this is the kind of thing that interests you, you won't want to miss "Pirates."
Filmfodder Grade: F+