This movie was surprisingly better than I expected it to be. It's a big-budget Hollywood epic, there is no doubt about that, but the acting and dialogue aren't as bad as they could be (note that I am *not* saying they are good, just that they aren't as bad as they could be) and the special effects are great. When they sail through bad weather, you get sick to your stomach. Plus there is just something inherently cool about big old boats.
It also manages to meet most of my criteria for a decent period film. The cast never really looks clean, and they wear the same clothes over and over. They also keep fake accents to a minimum and don't try to overdo the "period speak" (althought they do a fairly irritating job of calling each other "Mr. Lastname" instead of by first name, which I don't quite buy). The medicine is grisly (if fairly unbelievable). The ships quarters seem larger than I would expect, but I guess you have to sacrifice some accuracy in the name of cinema.
I have never pretended to like Russell Crowe. I make no bones about it, I think he's a pompous ass and I don't think he has any acting chops whatsoever. That being said, he didn't irritate me half as much in this film as he did in Gladiator (and yes, I think Gladiator is one of the worst movies every made). And Joaquin Phoenix isn't in this either, so that helps. Billy Boyd, the guy who plays Merry in LOTR, has a smallish part, though, and he's awesome. I also liked Paul Bettany as Crowe's doctor friend, which isn't surprising since I got such a kick out of him in The Knight's Tale (which is, nonetheless, a truly terrible film).
This film has no women in it. It's hard to tell the minor characters apart because everyone is grubby and dressed the same and talks the same and nobody has a first name. It's l-o-n-g. All in all, though, it's one of those things that is worth $8 to see on the big screen, if you get the chance. If you don't, don't bother renting it.