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Despite the Judy Garland-Gene Kelly pairing, The Pirate is a better pirate comedy than it is a musical. Not to say there aren't some good musical interludes (the big hit from this show is "Be a Clown", and there's a pure Gene Kelly fantasy dance sequence that convinces me he could have done kung fu movies), but the feel few and far between as the mechanics of the plot take hold. And it IS a good plot, full of fun twists, a villain to hiss at, and the heroes needing to be clever to get out of situations. That said, I'm not sure it's a comedy that works as well if it ISN'T a musical. That is to say, the way Garland especially plays comedy is part of that kind of showy hyper-reality. Her character, a Spanish girl obsessed with the idea of being swept off her feet by a romantic and adventurous pirate, is a drama queen, so she uses it fairly amusingly when she needs to manipulate. Kelly is the frothy actor who would put on a pirate act to win her love, and he puts in a fun and charming performance, as ever. A good time, even if the genre hybridization was slightly unbalanced.
A delightful film with Kelly and Garland whose screen chemistry works incredibly well. Kelly uses more of his ballet moves here and his trademark tapping is absent which just goes to highlight even more of his talent. He slinks like a cat from scene to scene as if every movement and turn of the head is choreographed. Garland is equally good, she steals much of the singing parts and dazzles as a young Spanish woman searching after her pirate love.
My first Minnelli and what a treat! The way the performances are staged is exquisite, and the batshit setpieces remind me of what Hong Kong cinema would do in the 80’s, especially the fantasy pirate sequence.
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #74 in BFI's 100 Film Musicals
This movie ranks #277 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #790 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films: 1001-2000