Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

No rip-off, this pirate-ride movie is actually fun.

PART OF DISNEY'S ghastly master plan to synergize its movies and amusement parks, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl turns out to be an unlikely little treasure. The movie, which opens Wednesday, July 9, at the Metro and other theaters, is actually based on the venerable Disneyland ride, and Mauschwitz philistines might've churned its carnival charm into a dreary franchise flick. But they were saved by crass yet imaginative producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who forced them to up the ante ($150 million up), dare a bit of PG-13 violence, complicate the story beyond cookie-cutter romance and buried treasure, and trust Johnny Depp when he insisted on turning the main pirate character, Capt. Jack Sparrow, into a Keith Richards impression. I had almost as much fun watching Depp and his nemesis (Geoffrey Rush) chew the scenery as they did chomping splinters. Depp wants to get his ship back from mutinous Rush, who stole it, incurring a curse that turns him and his crew to skeletons by moonlight. This makes them hard to kill, but all they want is to become flesh again and return to the rum-and-apples pirate lifestyle. The only thing that can save them is a death's-head medallion worn by Keira Knightley (Bend It Like Beckham), whose dad governs pirate-plagued Port Royal. He's pressuring her to marry the stolid commodore defending the town; we know she'll tumble for sword-making blacksmith Orlando Bloom. Bloom and Knightley's characters are sexless vapidities, like Keebler elves, but no matter! Her rescue is divertingly unstraightforward, the curse subplot enriching, and Depp self-indulgently delightful. He cavorts around with Glimmer Twin panache and gold teeth reminiscent of Gary Oldman in True Romance. OK, it's all yo-ho-whoredom. But it's still a good swashbuckling summer ride. tappelo@seattleweekly.com

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