Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley. Rated PG. For showtimes, please see page 56
Over the past couple of decades, the pirate movie has suffered through any number of terminally embarrassing spins on the genre. (Everything from a cutlass-crazy Geena Davis in Cutthroat Island to Walter Matthau slouching his way through Pirates with all the dash of Oscar Madison in a three-cornered hat.)
Fortunately, the classic swashbuckler was given a surprisingly refreshing update with 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The reasons for its huge success? Director Gore Verbinski's eye-popping array of special effects and Johnny Depp's delightful take on the buccaneer as rum-soaked rock star. Inspired by Keith Richards, Depp's suavely debauched Jack Sparrow staggered around as if he couldn't decide between searching for buried treasure and trashing a hotel room.
The sense of fun was so effortlessly contagious that a sequel seemed like a no-brainer. In fact””for the first half-hour or so””Verbinski's Dead Man's Chest looks as if it will easily top the original. This time around, young lovers Elizabeth and Will (Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom) are stopped from getting married and making babies with exquisite cheekbones when they are thrown in jail by the evil Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander). The deal? Get Jack Sparrow's magic compass””a contraption that points the way to a person's deepest desire””or spend the rest or your life in prison.
Will reluctantly goes along with the plan, and we eagerly anticipate some good, clean, double-dealing fun. Alas, the story gets hopelessly bogged down with some supernatural filler about the ghost ship the Flying Dutchman and its legendary captain, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, tricked out with squidlike tentacles for hair and the rubber face of a pissed-off octopus). Before we know it, our confused cast is off trying to the find Davy's beating heart, which, inexplicably, is locked in a treasure chest. Because the plot is low on character development and makes no sense whatsoever, it seems like a wise move to surrender to an onslaught of special effects.
Unfortunately””apart from a rollicking fencing sequence on a runaway water wheel””the special effects are about as novel as the old sea-monster routines in those low budget Sinbad serials. At a sluggish two-and-a-half hours, Verbinski could have easily lopped off a good 30 minutes and lost nothing.
There are flickers of hope when we realize that Elizabeth is romantically drawn to Jack, but this is obviously being saved for the third movie, which is already in the can. My advice? Give this one a miss and hope for better luck next time.