Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

by Catherine McCafferty
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black pearl

  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 143 minutes

Much like Jack Sparrow himself, Pirates of the Caribbean draws you in and keeps you hooked. Just think of the first twenty minutes or so: A burning ship, a mysterious pirate flag, the grand entrance of Jack Sparrow on a sinking ship, his amazing escape via ship parts and zip lines, a sword fight on roof beams ... and that's just the beginning. Then the intrigue truly begins.

Action and adventure would only hold you for so long, though -- and that's where the genius of Johnny Depp's characterization comes in. His Jack Sparrow is unsteady but shrewd, dishonest but honorable, and, as Elizabeth notes in one outtake, "... a smart man ... but I don't entirely trust you." Jack's charm, wit, and unpredictability, bolstered by a hearty cast of supporting characters, keep you wondering just what he'll do -- and as a consequence, what will happen next.

And after that first time, it keeps you waiting for him to do what he does, as he draws you back to watch again and again.

Kids Will Like:
Pirate duels, skeleton sailors, sailing on the high seas with a pirate crew -- it's today's Treasure Island. Then there's a monkey named Jack, a parrot who speaks for Mr. Cotton, and that eyeball-on-the loose that keeps having to be popped back into the pirate's eye.

Parents Will Like:
While the kids will laugh at the slapstick, parents will enjoy the movie's quirky humor and characters. Moms especially will appreciate the strong female character of Elizabeth, who does as much rescuing as her would-be rescuers. And while you wouldn't expect a pirate movie to help with parenting, the film's talk of the pirate Code points out that even pirates had to follow rules. This could also lead to an interesting discussion with older kids about the letter of the law -- the Code -- versus the spirit of the law -- "more like guidelines."

Heads Up:
The genuine terror of a pirate attack -- no laughs here -- is captured by a tot screaming for his mother amid all the murderous mayhem. That scene and the skeletons, funny as they are at times, could be enough to give young ones nightmares. Steer them toward Treasure Planet or Muppet Treasure Island instead and save Black Pearl for when they're older.

"Mom/Dad, what's a eunuch?" Plan your answer in case your kids catch this reference in Jack's first scene with Will. There are also a few "bad words" throughout that they'll already recognize.

Logistical note: Black Pearl runs 2 hours and 23 minutes, so you'll want to start movie night early.

Own It?
Yes, especially to see what you missed of Jack's crafty schemes the first time.

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