With hobbits and superheroes now dominating the public imagination, could it be that all of yesteryear's heroes will soon have their moment in the spotlight? It might be early to start plotting a comeback for Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze, but Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl makes a good case for bringing back a genre that's been mostly neglected for a couple of decades. Maybe the blame belongs to 1982's The Pirate Movie, a disastrous one-time HBO staple in which Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins lip-sync soft-rock love songs and mangle The Pirates Of Penzance. Maybe not, but Pirates Of The Caribbean comes swinging back as if such offenses had never taken place and only advances in special effects stood between it and Errol Flynn. Keira Knightley plays a free-spirited daughter of colonial governor Jonathan Pryce, whose success at ridding his island port of uncivilized elements doesn't stop her from dreaming of pirates, or the castaway she helped rescue from a pirate ship as a young child. He grew up to be Lord Of The Rings' Orlando Bloom, a blacksmith who has learned to brandish swords with the same skillfulness he uses to forge them. Both Knightley and Bloom make for appealing leads, but Johnny Depp, sporting the best facial hair since Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs Of New York, easily steals the film as the colorfully named Captain Jack Sparrow, a down-on-his-luck pirate introduced posing majestically on a dilapidated dinghy. Flouncing, bugging his eyes, and speaking in an indescribable accent when not engaging in feats of derring-do, he finds a balance between the comic and the heroic perfectly aligned with a script written in part by the Shrek team of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. Similarly, The Ring director Gore Verbinski knows when to break out the stunning action sequences and when to let his characters dominate the film, and he handles both modes expertly. In a rare bit of successful corporate synergy, Verbinski even finds a way to incorporate gags from the Disney theme-park ride that lends the film its name, and he keeps the proceedings fun once Depp, Knightley, and Bloom get drawn into a special-effects-heavy plot involving cursed gold and ghostly pirates captained by a perfectly over-the-top Geoffrey Rush. Rush even has a monkey sidekick (the traditional parrot belongs to someone else) and says "Arrr!" without a hint of self-consciousness. Pirates Of The Caribbean is that sort of movie, and though no one seemed to be clamoring for pirate adventures, it still seems long overdue.