Imagine, if you will, the Caribbean Sea in the 17th century and you will get an entirely different picture than that which currently embodies countless glossy travel magazines. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl takes place at an entirely different era. There evil pirates roam the seas in an attempt to lift an ancient curse that leaves them trapped between life and death. Led by the wicked Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), they will stop at nothing. But rogue pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) along with a young blacksmith named Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), may just take on the world's most treacherous pirates and win. At stake lies the life of Will's beloved Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley, "Bend It Like Beckham") and the Black Pearl itself.

"Pirates of the Caribbean" is based on one of the finest theme park rides ever and the film happens to be just as charming as the ride itself. "Pirates" is a sweeping, fun adventure that will most certainly secure a smile on your face, make you grab a sword and a black patch. Making a pirate movie was a significant gamble on behalf of producer Jerry Bruckheimer since movies of this genre have had a suspicious tendency to fail. Perhaps they are cursed. But with this film, both Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski ("The Mexican", "Ring") hit all the right notes.

Perhaps their major accomplishment was the fact that they brought along scribes Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio ("Shrek") and allowed them much involvement with production as it unfolded. Too often writers get their scripts torn away from them and are left in the dark thereafter. Here they were able to converse with the actors, gain input, see what was in fact working out in production, and what was not.

Johnny Depp's character, Captain Jack Sparrow, was clearly one that was not solely created by the writers, but rather by combining the efforts of the writers with the spectacular vision that was afforded to the actor. Depp is simply delicious here. He luminates the screen in a way that very few actors ever have. He's a character that you want watch, over and over again. He is a quite strange creature, but also a rather swaggering sort of pirate. Depp's performance is amusing, deep, creative, fresh, at times sad, and always entertaining. The character of Jack Sparrow is one that will down in film history.

The only negative side to Depp giving such a tremendous performance is that naturally all others now seem pale in comparison. The only actor that manages to light up the screen in a similar, yet not as extensive, way is Geoffrey Rush who gives Captain Barbossa some sort of an edge that is between good and evil. When the two are together on screen, the film just works on a much higher level. That is not to say that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are lousy at their roles. Both actors certainly do a solid job here. It's simply that their characters are just not nearly as interesting as that of Depp's. We want each and every frame to be filled with him, but since that is impossible for the narrative, both Knightley and Bloom get in the way.

Aside from Captain Barbossa, the only other elements that are able to fully stand up to Depp's rather large shadow are spectacular visuals. These visuals include exciting sword fights, costumes, gorgeous sea shots and inspiring sets. Verbinski, quite plainly, makes the film look good.

"Pirates of the Caribbean" appears to focus on one thing only: delivering high-quality fun. However on its way to successfully achieving that recipe, it also finds yet another important ingredient, a heart. And that's rare enough not miss. "Hi Ho Hi Ho and a bottle of rum, it's a pirate's life for me

Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl is out July 9, 2003.

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