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Sunday, July 13, 2003
REVIEW: DISNEY'S PIRATES STAYS AFLOAT

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is much better than I expected. In an industry in which movies that have "swords and sandals" are generally panned, this film keeps its head above water with both a good story and one outstanding performance by the exceedingly talented Johnny Depp. Depp plays his Captain Jack Sparrow with a slightly off-balance quirky swagger that is pure fun to watch.

The story here is also much better than projects of this sort tend to be. It holds together well, keeps moving and has a nice little twist at the end. Along the way, there are a lot of tongue and cheek swashbuckling moments that keep subverting the traditional formulas. The production values are high and the characterizations are well-conceived and executed. As a bonus, there is no profanity or crassness or nudity or sex in the project. The violence is about the same as you find in any Errol Flynn swashbuckler.

I was ready to hate this movie as an example of Disney's shameless self-promotion. The movie is derived from the Disney theme park ride of the same name, and it seemed to me that any movie based on a three minute attraction couldn't have a lot to it. I was wrong. They have done a good job, and have created a movie that is genuine family fun.

In what may end up revealing a total dearth of new ideas, however, Disney also has a movie in production that is based on the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland. Not sure wheher they are intending to create a whole new genre here - but if anyone from Disney is paying attention, I would avoid any pitches you about dramatizing the Tikki, tikki, tikki, tikki, tikki Room. Unless it's like, a horror film.