Picks and Pans Review: Pirates

updated 08/04/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/04/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Pittsburgh isn't the only place where the Pirates are having a dreary year. This film, directed by Roman (Chinatown) Polanski, is a tedious succession of listless battles between effete Spanish sailors and a scruffy bunch of buccaneers led by Walter Matthau. Matthau is a peerless comic actor. But even he can't get much out of this movie, except for one scene where the grandees force him to eat a boiled rat, and he toys with it delicately as if it were pheasant under glass. Cris Campion, a young French musician, plays Matthau's stalwart assistant, and Charlotte Lewis, the latest in Polanski's string of nubile protégées, is a noblewoman in constant distress. The script—calling it vapid would be offering a compliment—was co-written by Polanski and his frequent collaborator Gerard Brach. The 1976 pirate spoof Swashbuckler with Robert Shaw and James Earl Jones was a classic by comparison. It makes this film worse that Polanski is such an accomplished director. It looks like a movie and it sounds like a movie, yet there's not really anything to see or hear. (PG-13)

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