I have no problems with PHP as a language, I learned it before I learned Perl, and it has its own strengths. (Readability, designed for web apps) However, when it comes to making use of existing code modules, nothing I've seen can touch CPAN. Frankly CPAN has spoiled me considerably, I find locating PHP modules to be an extremely irritating task now.
Speaking of which, I spent quite a bit of time a few weeks ago looking for a good template module for PHP, and was finally delighted to find vLib Templates
. I'm not sure how its caching speedup compares to Smarty's, but it had the impressive bonus of looking very familiar