Pirates: Does Depp Still Deliver the Gold?

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Judging from the responses to yesterday’s poll, either you all don’t like Woody Allen to begin with, or his romantic shenanigans were enough to turn you off permanently. That’s more than fair. Then again, maybe no one even considered seeing a Woody Allen film last weekend – so busy were they with the $90 million dollar insta-blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean.

Which I’ve just seen. In a quiet theater with a smattering of adults. Of course I was the only one laughing, but I don’t actually believe that’s because it wasn’t funny. It was because the median age range of theatergoers seated around me either lacked an appreciation for vaguely sophomoric humor, or lacked hearing altogether. Nor have I ever seen a Pirates movie. I’d been told one need only be aware of two facts: a) that it stars Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow, and b) that it’s based on a Disneyland Theme Park ride. While the first is completely true I’m pretty sure that they also had some help from earlier books along with the ride. But I was curious, and having seen all the Harry Potter and Twilight movies, it was time to dive into yet another megafranchise. Albeit belatedly.

Beyond the two facts, I didn’t know what to expect except that this one was the fourth in what is now a multi-billion dollar series featuring swashbuckling pirates and all sorts of lawlessness on the High Seas.With our requisite hero Jack Sparrow. A thought sprang to mind the second the film began. Here goes. There are contracts and there are contracts. Movie stars are bound to contracts, but if they’re big enough movie stars they can get out of those contracts. Lots of movie stars get involved with big budget movies because they want – or perhaps even need – the cash. To buy magnificent things, to sever ties with a magnificent spouse, or simply to maintain a super luxe lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. If memory serves, Johnny Depp has a long-term significant other, several children and an island. He does not appear to be wanting for anything in the material or personal realm. I also suspect he could retire at any point without a care in the world financially. Now he is likely somehow bound to a contract, but it’s probably nothing he couldn’t get out of if he wanted. My point is this: there is something amazing about watching an actor who is probably playing a role because he just plain loves doing it. And that translates on screen. This is obviously not atom-splitting on my part, but Depp really is in a class by himself. He is also ultra-hilarious in the movie. Which is a whole lot of fun, and I totally enjoyed myself despite the humorless older people around me. The plot? Who knows. Depp, the very good Ian McShane, the delightful Penelope Cruz and the charming Geoffrey Rush travel breathlessly from ship to enchanted/deadly tropical forest to mysterious/deadly beach and back again. I wasn’t entirely certain who was where, searching for what, or why (it was either The Fountain of Youth or Revenge, or perhaps both). Nor did I care. The effects boggle the imagination, and you’ll think twice about seeking out mermaids again – let alone trying to procure one’s tears. Smoke and fires abound, everyone has a long, filthy beard and Keith Richards even makes an appearance (he’s done this before). No one’s got a full set of teeth and all are super-facile with swords and can leap across ravines with the ease of someone negotiating a sidewalk crack. Not that any of this matters one bit. It’s an over-the-top confection but I definitely see exactly why it works for the kids. And then some.

Today’s poll:

Johnny Depp stars in Pirates of  the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us your favorite Piratesactor besides Johnny Depp:

1)   Penelope Cruz

2)   Geoffrey Rush

3)   Keira Knightley

4)   Orlando Bloom

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