Pirate pictures are poison. Yellowbeard, Pirates, CutThroat Island - all sank to the bottom of the box office, weighed down with critical bile.
Factor in Gore Verbinski's workmanlike reputation and a theme park ride for source material and Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (deep breath) looks as attractive as the Elephant man.
So, brace the mainsail and shiver those timbers, etc, for this is a superb swashbuckler - rousing, funny and spectacular.
"This is either madness or brilliance," says Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), as he and Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) attempt to steal a ship and rescue the governor's daughter (Keira Knightley). The statement could easily be ascribed to Depp's eccentric, ecstatic performance, and as the singular skipper replies, "It's remarkable how often those two traits coincide."
Depp simply steals the show, lock, stock and two floating barrels. Foppish, fey and hilarious, Sparrow is a brilliant creation - a self-publicising rogue with the élan of Douglas Fairbanks and the demeanour of an acid casualty.
Faced with his scene-snaffling, the others do well to register. Bloom has a Flynn-ish quality (if a touch goodie goodie) as Knightley's squeeze, while the young British actress (Bend It Like Beckham) appears effortlessly charismatic.
Marginally less photogenic, Geoffrey Rush is no less impressive as the villainous Captain Barbossa, questing to lift the curse on the crew of the notorious Black Pearl.
His dialogue is gloriously grandiose ("Compelled by greed we were and now we are consumed by it!"), but always underscored by the wit you'd expect from the writers of Shrek and The Mask Of Zorro.
The latter is a stylistic touchstone for this story of seabound skulduggery - which matches its playful tone, splendid swordfights and cheerful disposability. And while Pirates may be as overlong as its franchise-minded title, the characters are so engaging, the action so entertaining, you won't really care. Yo ho ho, indeed.