Monday, September 19, 2011

'Blackbeard' is an okay pirate yarn

Blackbeard (2006)
Starring: Angus McFadyen, Marc Umbers, Jessica Chastain, Anthony Green, Richard Chamberlain, and Rachel Ward
Director: Kevin Connor
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Lt. Robert Maynard of British Royal Naval (Umbers) is dispatched to the Caribbean on a secret mission to hunt the feared and murderous pirate Blackbeard (McFadyen). His mission and burgeoning romance with the lovely Charlotte Ormand (Chastain) is disrupted when the corrupt colonial governor and ally of Blackbeard (Chamberlain) attempts to assassinate Maynard. Through a chain of misunderstandings, the officer finds himself accepted into Blackbeard's crew and ends up helping the pirate with his obsessive search for the legendary lost treasure of Captain Kidd.

If you're looking for a fun traditional pirate adventure tale that you can watch with the whole family, "Blackbeard" is a good choice. Originally made for the Hallmark Channel as a two-part miniseries, it has a well-paced script with just the right mix of action, romance, intrigue, cannon-fire, and swashbuckling pirate antics to please just about any viewer. The cast is also excellent, with Angus McFadyen in particular excelling as the ruthless title character. The even mix of fictional events and historical facts might make it dangerous if you're trying to use it as a shortcut for a school paper, but as a piece of entertainment is pretty good.

Although a good deal of money and effort went into the sets and costuming, this is one area where the film slips a little. Everything and everyone is just a little too clean and fresh. A little more time should have been spent on "aging" costumes and sets, and the actors should have been a little grimier and sweatier than any of them are. The lower-budgeted pirate films from Hammer Studios forty years earlier and even Alfred Hitchcock's "Jamaica Inn" from more than sixty years earlier did a better job at creating a believable 18th century environment than the production designers, costumers, and set-dressers on "Blackbeard" managed to do.

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