Genre: Action, Adventure

Rating: PG-13 (for action/adventure violence)

Release Date: July 9, 2003

Actors: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Tom Wilkinson, Keira Knightly, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport

Director: Gore Verbinski

Special Notes: To maximize authenticity, all of the actors playing pirates and a few playing British naval officers, spent weeks training with stunt coordinator George Marshall Ruge and his sword masters (who trained Flynn and Fairbanks). Johnny Depp received training in the art of fencing when he starred in "Don Juan DeMarco" several years ago and Orlando Bloom likewise had already spent time with both Ruge and his team on "The Lord of the Rings." Few ships in existence today could pass for a vessel dating back to the 18th century and the studio and producers initially assumed they would have to build every ship featured in the story until they found a full-scale period reproduction of the first American vessel to make landfall on the Pacific Northwest Coast in 1789 -- The Lady Washington. The Lady Washington's crew was also used in front of the camera. The crew was a combination of men and women, experienced professionals as well as trainees, ranging in age from 16 to mid 50s, all of whom can now claim to have appeared as pirates in a major motion picture; the ladies even sported facial hair. Depp, who developed his ideas for the character of Jack while reading the script in his sauna, says he modeled a large part of the character after legendary Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, added a bit of the cartoon character Pepe Le Pou and tossed in some modern day Rastafarian.

Plot: The story is set in motion in the seventeenth century with 10-year-old Will drifting in the Caribbean Sea amidst the murdered crew and burning wreckage of a British ship that was attacked by pirates. The same day of his rescue, young Elizabeth (who has a romanticized notion about pirates) sees a gold medallion around Will's neck of a Jolly Roger skull and takes it from the unconscious boy thinking she has spared his life. Years later we see Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp), a charming pirate who has sailed all over the world, come to the Caribbean seeking adventure and treasure. Captain Jack's troubles begin when his precious ship, The Black Pearl, is stolen by the conniving Captain Barbossa (Rush). Then Jack is accused of kidnapping the governor's (Pryce) daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Knightly), and thrown in jail by her fiancé, British Commodore Norrington (Davenport). When the town of Port Royal is then attacked by Barbossa and Elizabeth is kidnapped by his men, Jack escapes jail and enlists the help of Elizabeth's childhood friend, Will Turner (Bloom), to commandeer the fastest ship in the British fleet and go after Elizabeth. As the two get closer to catching the kidnappers aboard the H.M.S. Dauntless, they discover skeletons in Barbossa's closet. It appears that his crew is cursed to live forever as the undead, with the moonlight eerily transforming them into living skeletons, until their treasure of gold is returned in full to them. When Jack realizes he has the gold coin that could release them from their curse, the deadly chase is on.

Good: Ahoy mates! This swashbuckling adventure is a mixture of old-fashioned entertainment with modern day technology that will thrill audiences with its cast of interesting characters, imaginative sets, electrifying sword fights and realistic special effects. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is at the helm of this live-action adventure that pays homage to the popular Disney ride but isn't a direct interpretation of the attraction itself (although sketches and original concept drawings were provided by one of the ride's innovators). Rather, the film is an irreverent wink at the famous Disney theme park attraction which has stood the test of time and captivated so many of us for over 35 years. The ride was merely the seed for the idea of the movie; if you're a fan of the ride, you'll spot several familiar tribute scenes (pirates chase women around a balcony, a crab is in the sand next to a skeleton, Depp is in jail and dangles a bone through the bars to lure a dog (holding keys in his mouth) to come closer, and many more). Depp plays his famous pirate-with-a-past to the hilt and does a marvelous job at ultimately giving us a character who mentors Will and teaches him that he can't just blindly follow nonsensical rules and that a man has to make his own decisions, right or wrong, and go after what he wants in life. Bloom gives us a character who's coming of age and has grown up without a father figure, so he looks to Jack to open his eyes to what it means to be a man. He gets to be the one character audiences will relate to most. Knightley gets to play a twenty-first century girl stuck in an eighteenth century world. Elizabeth's strong independence gets her in trouble when she lets her morbid and romanticized curiosity about pirates become an obsession, and in fact she's shocked when her romantic notions are shaken by the cutthroat, dirty reality of who the pirates really are and what they're really like. But it's the attention of both Jack and Will that change Elizabeth's notions of romance and adventure. I enjoyed Rush in his wonderful portrayal of the feared pirate Barbossa. He's both scary and intense enough to keep the story suspenseful but personable enough to keep his character human and realistic.