|The actor:||Johnny Depp|
|The character:||Captain Jack Sparrow|
|The film:||Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl|
|The quote:||“But why is the rum gone?”|
There are multiple movies on this list which have two entries, like I’ve hinted elsewhere. However, there are no characters with more than one line represented. This was not purposeful—my shortlist of about 200 lines definitely had repeated characters—but I like the way that’s shaken out. If it shortchanges anyone, it shortchanges the people from this century whose quotes you know and love the most already and who definitely do not need my validation to be recognized as iconic, lasting characters: Ron Burgundy, Heath Ledger’s Joker, Captain Jack Sparrow.
The screenplay for Curse of the Black Pearl is by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the two guys who in a ten-year span made a living writing some of your favorite screenplays for kids from the 1990s and early 2000s. Aladdin, which obviously got a lift from Robin Williams but would still have been pretty fun without his ad libs, is theirs. The Mask of Zorro is theirs, and so is another goofy swashbuckler set in Mexico, The Road to El Dorado. Shrek is theirs, and so is the superior satirical effort Small Soldiers. They have this marvelous gift for quips and pokes and ripostes, a talent for using the images as a way to set up jokes, with faith in the actor to produce a reading that will elevate the line. (Shrek is probably the best of them: “Look at that boulder. That is a nice boulder.” “Do you think he’s compensating for something?”) Two of my favorites are in Curse of the Black Pearl, both spoken by Depp. His “Who makes all these?” after we see a shot of a ridiculous number of swords is great. My favorite part of this movie is comes when he’s in the brig in the Black Pearl and all of a sudden sees daylight coming through the hull of the ship. “Stop!” he says, with just an ounce of hesitation after it, the space of a hiccup, “blowing holes in my ship!”
However, in this case I’ll yield to the popular consensus about what the go-to line from this film is, a poem recited less by college sophomores and more often by wine moms. “But why is the rum gone?” is a victim of its own success, a running gag that people started to clamor for without a shred of dignity as these movies got worse and worse. It’s also part of a very good back-and-forth in which Keira Knightley, who has always had too strong a chin to be all that funny, plays the straight man. The start of this scene sees Jack waking up to his desert island very on fire. He has much the same reaction that most of us would have if we turned around from our burgers and hot dogs on the grill and saw that the grill was engulfed in flame: “No! Not good! Stop! Not good!” The food is gone; the shade is gone; the rum is gone. It’s that last that catches his attention, and Elizabeth explains that rum, aside from turning “even the most respectable men into complete scoundrels,” is also fueling the biggest smoke signal in the Western Hemisphere. These are good points, but it’s that pained second question, begging not for explanation but for succor, which has stuck in all of our brains.
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