Michael Dennos’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that Curse of the Black Pearl has any deep, underlying themes or that there’s any type of insightful commentary it has to offer on anything. It’s just a simple, straightforward adventure story – but one that’s done with a great amount of effort, skill and heart. This movie has no pretentions about itself; it just takes all the story elements and characters it has and works them into something that’s a fun and exhilarating ride from beginning to end. Actually, this movie is kind of like a delicately-stacked deck of cards. There are so many carefully handled nuances about the performances, the line deliveries, and the ways that certain scenes play out, that if you were to remove just one small thing, the whole structure would come crashing down. Building off that, I find that every time I watch this movie, it’s the more subtle touches that I get a kick out of the most, the kind of subtle touches of humor and character actions/reactions that are just as effective, if not more so, than the more obvious jokes and whatnot. For example, the way that Jack sarcastically offers Barbossa an apple, which Jack knows Barbossa won’t even be able to taste. Or the way that Barbossa rolls his eyes after futilely getting stabbed in the chest. Or the way Jack scolds Will under his breath when Will threatens to shoot himself at a key moment in the film. Moments like those are awesome, as are the bigger ones (WHY IS THE RUM GONE???), which work just as well.
The performances also help elevate everything to a higher level. Following from Johnny Depp’s fantastic lead, most of the other cast members manage to inject just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek acting to their performances, while still managing to anchor the film with a more straight-arrow quality to compliment Depp’s eccentricities. The action incites that wonderful reaction of joy and excitement in us, because the swordfights are blocked and executed with tremendous energy, and the score goes along with every jab, parry and lunge perfectly. Not to mention I LOVE the central musical theme of these movies.
The Curse of the Black Pearl actually reminds me somewhat of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Both movies take a simple plot driven by a quest and breathe incredible life into them, both have memorable main characters, the action in both is exciting and the humor deftly handled. So many summer blockbusters seem to forget that a little simplicity can go a long way when handled well. This movie, thankfully, is a reminder of that method. For what it is, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is terrific entertainment of the highest caliber, a B movie elevated to the A level due to the execution.