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Who’d have thought a movie based on a Disney theme park ride would turn out to be the most thoroughly entertaining blockbuster of the summer? Where The Matrix Reloaded relied far too heavily on special effects innovations and ditched the humour, Pirates of the Caribbean prioritises the latter over the former. Where Charlie '5 Angels: Full Throttle bored the pants off everyone, with a plot subsumed to the overuse of outmoded effects, Pirates’ storytelling and thrills really engage. And where Terminator 3 suffered the law of diminishing returns by rehashing the previous film, Pirates, with its debuting characters and settings and take on a relatively unplundered genre, feels fresh and new.

Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio have a lot to answer for. The smart Alecs who co-wrote the brilliant CGI fairytale parody, Shrek, were roped in by Ebara- producer Jerry Bruckheimer to give Pirates a similar sharp, comic edge. (What Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who’s ruthlessly ridiculed in Shrek, must have thought is anyone‘s guess.) There is, for example, a great ongoing gag about the ‘Pirate Code'. No one seems sure exactly what is it, but if used correctly it stops pirates mid-pillage. Except pirates are, by their nature, immoral, unethical and disloyal - attributes which do challenge the code. ‘Pirate!’ Johnny Depp‘s Captain Jack Sparrow cheekin reminds an opponent undone at one point by such foul play.

Fine as Elliot and Rossio‘s script is, it's Depp who walks away with the film. His charming rogue is less Errol Flynn than Keith Richards, and his creation. little of which was on the page, is nothing less than comic genius. Depp, in fact, modelled his flamboyant performance on the Rolling Stones guitarist, from cocky English accent to stoner state of mind (one of the film‘s funniest self-

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referential jokes explains why Sparrow looks constantly smashed).

Pretty young Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley provide the romantic charm as swordsmith Will Turner and childhood sweetheart Elizabeth Swann. whose love is thwarted first by Swann‘s father (Jonathan Pryce), who wishes her married off to dull man of means, Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport). and then by the kidnapping of the maid by the utterly wicked Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and his undead pirate crew.

That’s right, Sparrow and Turner team up to rescue Swann from zombie cutthroats! Cool! Elliot



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Dude where's my galleon?

and Rossio have added a supernatural element - not part of the original theme park ride that sees our heroes clashing cutlasses with undead opponents as in Jason and the Argonauts. And far from being just an excuse for CGI trickery. the supernatural element also gives the film's buried treasure story cliche a neat twist.

The final word. though. must go to director Gore Verbinski (Mouse Hunt), who balances the swashbuckling with just the right amount of savvy slapstick silliness. Hoist that Jolly Roger!

(Miles Fielder)

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The reluctant debutante