My rating: ***
A film from the pen of Neil Gaiman set in an amusingly modernised fairytale world. What really made this film for me, however, was the performance of Robert de Niro as a cross-dressing pirate. All bluster, walk the plank and aaargh me hearties to the exterior world, in the privacy of his cabin this pirate is a kind-hearted man with a love of fine (female) clothes, culture and music. He is anxious to preserve his reputation as a ferocious take-no-prisoners marauder however – a reputation much admired and upheld by his motley crew. He only learns late in the piece that his crew are well aware and perfectly tolerant of his proclivities and quite happy to play along with the charade.
The theme of a menacing, or alternately bumbling, public persona which is used to disguise a heroic, cultured or highly intelligent real person is one that has always fascinated me. Characters such as The Scarlet Pimpernel, Pimpernel Smith (from a 1941 film both starring and directed by Lesley Howard), or Severus Snape from Harry Potter are all characters who fit the bill. Somebody who does this in real life is Christopher Walken. His menacing screen persona belies his mild but sometimes eccentric conduct off screen.