This is what big summer blockbuster studio movies are all about — love, honor, humor, villains evil enough to make it really satisfying when they are beaten and scary enough to keep you wondering whether it’s possible, and thrilling stunts and big explosions.
It’s summer. We don’t want to think too hard. A little silliness is fine, and we’re more than willing to abandon any thoughts about whether this bears any relation to history or reality or the laws of time and space. We do ask, though that someone has thought it through at least enough so that we can enjoy it without any intrusive “Hey, wait a second” moments. And of course it helps to throw in some cannibals, a voodoo enchantress, an undead monkey, a guy with an octopus head, and the return of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. The result is a perfect popcorn pleasure, one of the most sensationally entertaining movies of the year.
It is supposed to be the wedding day for Elizabeth (Kiera Knightly) and Will (Orlando Bloom). But they are arrested for helping Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) escape. Unless Will can find him and bring back something in Sparrow’s possession to give to the ambitious aspiring governor, they will both be executed. So Will goes off in search of Sparrow and Elizabeth goes off in search of Will.
But they are not the only ones looking for Sparrow. There are some cannibals who are deciding whether they will be better off with him as their god — or their main course. And then there’s the little matter of Davy Jones, he of the “locker” where the spirits of the deep are kept. He sails in the famous ghost ship called the Flying Dutchman with a part human/part sea-creature crew that includes Will’s father. And they want something from Sparrow, too.
This gives us plenty of time for swashbuckling sword fights (including one on a mill wheel that is near Indiana Jones quality), deliciously dangerous predicaments and clever getaways, true love, and non-stop adventure. The screen almost explodes with visual splendor so witty and imaginative that the production designer shouldn’t just get an Oscar; he should get a MacArthur genius grant.
So does Bill Nighy (the addled rock star from Love, Actually) for managing to not just make us believe in the octopus-face, but managing to act through it as well. His eyes and voice are magnificently expressive and deliciously malevolent. Naomie Harris has a blast with a deliciously witty performance as a voodoo priestess who has what appears to be squid ink leaking from her tattoos. She has no illusions about Captain Jack Sparrow but gets quite a kick out of him.
Director Gore Verbinski stages the imaginative stunts with high spirits and keeps things moving. He also manages to give the audience enough time with the characters to keep us involved and on their side. And the cliff-hanger ending — and promise of Keith Richards as Sparrow’s father — leave us happily hungry for part III.
Parents should know that this movie has non-stop action-style violence, including a scary sea monster with a zillion teeth. At times it is very intense, with characters injured and killed. A son is whipped by his father leaving bloody wounds. While most of the rest of the film is not gory, there are some gross images some audience members will find funny but others may find disgusting and overly graphic. There are some mild sexual references, and characters drink rum. It does not include the usual four-letter words, but there is some vivid and salty sailor-talk. Some audience members may be disturbed by references to the occult.
Families who see this movie should talk about why the compass stops working for Jack. What is important to him? How can you tell? Families might also like to investigate the source of some of the legends in this film like the flying Dutchman and Davy Jones’ locker.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original, The Crimson Pirate, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, Gene Kelly and Judy Garland in the musical The Pirate, and the underrated Shipwrecked. The classic ride at Disneyland and Disney World has been redesigned with changes from the movies, including the addition of Captain Jack Sparrow. Check here for updates.