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Pirates of the Caribbean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl

Rating: PG-13
Release Date: December 2, 2003
Running Time: approximately 143 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: Cursed pirates battle over the fate of a young woman and the apprentice blacksmith she loves.

  • Three Commentaries from cast and crew
  • Alternate and Deleted Scenes
  • Blooper Reel
  • Behind-the-scenes documentaries
  • Image Gallery
  • excerpt from Disney's Wonderful World of Color
  • Enhanced Computer Features

    Tech Specs: Widescreen anamorphic, aspect ratio 2.35:1, DTS 51. Digital Surround Sound, THX-Ceritified, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, French mono, English & French subtitles

    By now, it's pretty clear that Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is more than just a good film. It single-handedly revived a genre and made theater marquees safe for subtitles again. So when it comes to buying the DVD, it's a no-brainer. Disney only has one version available, so you have no option but to get the two-disc set loaded down with extras. And not just "some" extras," but over ten hours of bonus materials. The real question then becomes, are you going to watch any of them?

    In a move that's almost overkill (and may be counting for at least six of those ten promised hours), the film comes with a choice of three audio commentaries. As a testament to his own enthusiasm for the project, star Johnny Depp sits in to discuss the film with director Gore Verbinski. Both are so laid-back and low key about the whole thing, though, as to be almost indistinguishable. While they have a few insightful anecdotes to mumble, they spend so much time praising the writers of the film that you might as well just jump right to that commentary.

    Indeed, credited screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio offer a lot in way of explaining story problems and structure, as well as how they reached the solutions they did. The two writers almost drown out the other two, hapless Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert, who wrote earlier drafts that even in their own explanations sound far less interesting. A note of quiet defensive desperation creeps into Beattie's and Wolpert's voices, but little in the way of real value.

    Uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer teams with Keira Knightley and Jack Davenport for the third commentary. While Bruckheimer is interesting, a man who really knows how to make his formula work, the two actors seem more dazzled to just be included. At any rate, and as is often the case with commentary, a lot of the intriguing behind-the-scenes information gets offered much more succinctly in a behind-the-scenes documentary.

    The second disc is loaded with such material. If you're really just interested in a quick overview of the whole thing, the main documentary should be enough. It takes the viewer all the way through the film's premiere, with an insidiously clever little Disney marketing trick: though the premiere took place at Disneyland, the sign they show is for Disney's California Adventure. Do not be fooled, people; that park has no pirates. Nor any foot traffic.

    But Disneyland does have pirates, and because of that, some of the extras have a little extra bit of cool. This disc set delves deeply into the origins of the ride that inspired the film, much of it to be viewed leisurely on your computer. (Once again, as a Mac user, I'm plumb screwed on that front.) However, straight out of the Disney archives comes a television special discussing the ride's opening, including footage of Walt explaining his excitement for it to a wide-eyed all-American happening chick from his conservative '60's America.

    Watching this special actually gives you a better sense of the basic "plot" of the ride itself. Sections of the soundtrack now drowned out by the song finally become clear. And as a bonus, you're seeing the non-p.c. original version of the ride; a few elements have been changed as to not offend women - for we know perfectly well that pirates would take a fine slice of roast beef over a buxom wench any day.

    Of course, it still all boils back down to the film - which loses none of its luster in the great transfer done by Buena Vista. It still feels a little bulky to me, but when it's at its highest moments, Pirates of the Caribbean is one heck of a ride. So turn up the surround sound and shiver your timbers.

    Buy It: Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl

  • Derek McCaw


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