Depp Blue Yonder
Pirates of the Caribbean
Review by Ross Anthony

When a movie is adapted from a novel, we talk about how well it's been translated in literary/cinematic terms. But when a movie has been translated from a ride? Well, I suppose one would have to agree that the film has remained loyal to Disney's amusement park attraction "The Pirates of the Caribbean." You'll be swashbuckled, amused, you'll don a semi-gaped, one-eyebrow-up, smile for half the adventure ... and for the other half, you'll be waiting for the boat to make the turn into the next scene.

To be fair, I simply love Disneyland (that's the one in California) and "Pirates" is just about my favorite ride there. But how to take a 5 minute excursion and translate it to a 2 hour plus motion picture? And ... is that kind of amusement still amusing at these expanded durations?

The short simple answer: this very good idea/story simply ought have been cut shorter.

That said, it launches nicely, establishing its characters in classic Disney fashion. The lovely damsel not in love with the charming military officer, the handsome blacksmith unable to express his love to the damsel, the high-ranking father of the damsel apt only at floundering. The damsel becomes distressed -- enter the good-hearted pirate played so very adeptly by Johnny Depp. Actually, Depp's brilliant entrance is "Pirates" finest moment. Well-deserving of applause. I won't spoil it with description, except to say, what happens to his boat is rather a microcosm of the picture.

Depp's character, Jack Sparrow (oh sorry, that should be Captain Jack Sparrow) is charming, quirky, lovable, funny and a pleasure to watch. However, save for Rush (and the guy with one eye), no other character in the film is quite so endearing. A great deal of action might fill that void, and though "Pirates" certainly is not short on it, the action becomes mightily cyclic, repetitive, and occasionally makes little sense. Good guys jump from this boat to that one and take over. Bad guys jump from that boat to this one and take over, etc. etc. etc. Though, admittedly, before it becomes redundant, the action is truly fun and classically swashbuckling.

Further, the production is filmed with a certain, well, Disney quality that really makes you feel like you must be at Disneyland watching it. Therefore, you might think all-ages would enjoy, particularly the kids. And really, this is probably true. But there are a few scenes of rather stark violence. Not a lot, just a moment or two, that seem a bit out of place for the younger viewers.

Due to filled-up parking structures, we arrived a few minutes late and ended up viewing from the balcony. While it was fun to be in the balcony, the sound wasn't so clear, hence we missed a few cute lines here and there (given the echo and pirate accents). Additionally, I prefer to be right up in the face of an action movie. For these reasons, I'm going to give the picture the benefit of my doubt and nudge my grade up into the B+ range.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean. Copyright © 2003.
  • Starring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom.
  • Directed by Gore Verbinski.
  • Produced at Buena Vista.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:00:35 PDT