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IN SHORT: An E Ticket [Rated PG-13 for Action Adventure/Violence. 130 minutes]
For those under 40, the "E" ticket was the most prized of all the coupons in the admissions booklet you'd get when you bought your way into DisneyLand. Dads who purchased the family package would find a carefully planned vacation budget utterly wrecked when they discovered that the family package was heavy on baby rides like twirling teacups and, inevitably, one E-ticket short of the number required to get the entire family on to the really good rides. Dad would then have to purchase another entire package -- no single tickets in the old, pre-flat rate days -- and that's why current parental units get to curse out overpriced flat rate deals.
Even at the current prices to take a family to a first run movie feature, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is anything but an overpriced deal. It is as much fun as a filmed entertainment as is the Disney ride that inspired it. It isn't hard to thrill a kidlet -- sorry kids, it's true. It's a more difficult feat to make a parent feel like a kid again, all the while providing a story that won't utterly corrupt the young. Kids also note: the older your parents are, the easier it is for them to see bad influences where you may not -- but there's no such problem to be found in Pirates of the Caribbean, which is stuffed full of story material that no one in our audience budged while it unspooled. All the important demographic targets -- the teens and kids -- cheered when it was done. It is, by any and every definition of the phrase, a great action-filled family flick.
We do admit that the very idea of a film "inspired" by an amusement park ride didn't fill us with great expectations. Not having taken the ride at Disney -- we spent a couple of days waiting for Space Mountain back in the day -- we can't tell you what thrills from said ride made it into the movie. It doesn't really matter since our "no comparison to Source Material" rule still applies. More important, any reservation we may have had at planting for a movie inspired by a thrill ride was assuaged by the presence of Johnny Depp as the star name above the title. Depp's taste in scripts is remarkably eclectic and usually dead on accurate to our tastes. Nothing has changed with his choice here, and the finished product under Gore Verbinski's direction has as much tongue lodged in cheek as it is packed with all the requirements of the genre -- sword fights, cannon fusillades, swarthy and scurvy pirate crews both living and dead, buried treasure, maps to such, desert islands and so on and so forth.
We'll begin with that island, where Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) of the pirate ship Black Pearl was marooned by a mutineer-ing crew. Now captained by the scurvy mate called Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), the Pearl sails the seas of the Caribbean, happily plundering and looting passing ships and doing their best to evade the British fleet. It is also, thanks to its disreputable lifestyle, a cursed ship, said results of that curse becoming apparent when the sailors are seen by the light of a silvery moon.
The "good guys" are based in the city of Port Royal, an island occupied by the British. They include fair lady Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), daughter of Port Royal's Governor (Jonathan Pryce) and hard working Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), the blacksmithing son of a 'legendary' pirate nicknamed Bootstrap Bill . The fair lady is to be married to Commander Norrington of His Majesty's Finest (Jack Davenport) except that those darn pirates, not to mention current fashion, get in the way. Long story short, Elizabeth owes her life to Cap'n Jack, perhaps the most inept pirate ever to sail into Port Royal's harbor. Jack's spectacular entrance is followed by an equally spectacular sword fight and capture with the help of smithy Turner. When Captain Barbossa and the pirates of the Black Pearl attack Port Royal, it isn't to rescue their soon to hang ex-captain. It is to pillage and plunder and do all those things that good pirates do. Elizabeth attempts to negotiate a peace with the villains. She is taken hostage as part of the deal
Elizabeth, by the way, has known Will since childhood. When first seen, he was floating on a piece of wreckage and wearing a gold skull-and-bones pirate medallion around his neck. The gold is Aztec, part of a fabled stash of treasure that will link all the subplots and lead to a slam-bang climax on the fabled Isle de Muerta, whose name is more ironic than literal.With Will and Cap'n Jack both fixated on the Black Pearl and the beings on the ship, an alliance of convenience is formed.
Well, not really. We're not going to ruin any story twist and/or surprise even though there are far too many that we could spoil a pair or three if we wanted to. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is well inspired by the thrill ride concept of fun at any cost. It is substantially more than a great popcorn movie -- those "popcorn movies" being ones which this site usually defines as being worth the cost of a tub, even if it isn't a great movie -- Pirates is a helluva lot of fun. Yes, there is some sword violence that may bother a three year old, but you shouldn't be taking three year olds to the movies. What violence is of parental concern is nothing that your kids haven't seen done more graphically on TV. That assumes they sneak peaks at late night "adult" programs, as all kids are wont to do.
Take 'em. Take yourselves. A movie ticket is still cheaper than an amusement park admission <g>
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, he would have paid . . .
For those of us at parenting age, who couldn't think of any "pirate" move made since Errol Flynn was a star, all those monster sized popcorn and soda combos take their toll after two hours, not to mention wear and tear on a pain wracked bad back. All that aside, we sat glued to our seats for all of Pirates, finding it to be an incredible amount of fun.
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