by Dan Howland

Pirates of the Caribbean

dir. Verbinski

Opens Fri, July 11

Various Theaters

Whenever a movie comes out based on a pre-existing pop culture phenomenon--a comic book, for example--geeky fans of the original jump all over it to bitch and whine. Therefore, it was inevitable that Disney would get around to adapting my favorite pop culture crap, Disneyland rides; and I would be forced to publicly shame myself by shouting, "How DARE they?!"

"Pirates of the Caribbean" is, in case you've never been to Disneyland, a really great, dark ride. It has a cave filled with pirate skeletons and treasure, a mock naval battle, looting, pillaging, arson, and drunks singing a jolly sea shanty about well, about getting drunk. In the big finale, a gang of shit faced marauders whip out their flintlocks, penetrate the town's arsenal, and take cross-eyed potshots at kegs of gunpowder. Then you go up a waterfall, and that's end of the ride. Nobody saves the day! How cool is that?

It's much cooler than Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Johnny Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow, a pirate so swishy that upon first seeing him, a kid sitting behind me cried out, "He walks like a girl!" Depp acts as if he were auditioning to play a new Austin Powers villain, Rear Admiral Stinky. Geoffrey Rush, on the other hand, was born to play a scrofulous, cursed old seadog, and he gives almost as convincing a performance as your average theme park robot. Plus, he has a naughty zombie monkey who rides around on his shoulder.

As much as I love the ride, if I were thinking of ways to improve it (mind you, I'm NOT, because you CAN'T), making it two and a half hours long would be at the bottom of my list. The seats in the boats are hard fiberglass, and your ass would hurt. I wouldn't minimize the singing of "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" and substitute a pretentious score that rips off Orff's "Carmina Burana." I would not add Jerry Bruckheimer explosions, including stuntmen flying through the air with their arms flailing.

I might keep the zombie monkey--but THAT'S ALL!