‘Pirates’ Return an Arduous Cinema Experience

July 21, 2006

Pirate Jack Sparrow is up to his old tricks in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” and though he’s just as swarthy as ever, his second adventure is as stale as the rum on his breath.

The Disney film, set to be released in Costa Rica today, recycles many of the successful devices from the first film into a less compelling package.

Some crowd-pleasing elements are still intact. Johnny Depp as the floozy, dread-locked pirate Sparrow, Keira Knightley as the daring, alluring Elizabeth Swann and Orlando Bloom as honorable swashbuckler Will Turner give the picture instant public appeal.

As in the first film, Depp’s drunken, fast-talking character provides comic moments, as do dramatized versions of Disneyland’s animatronic Pirates of the Caribbean ride; a scene in a drunken pirate tavern, for example, mirrors a section of the popular attraction.

A pair of clumsily philosophizing pirates is also good for a chuckle.

But the sequel to “Pirates of the Caribbean” lacks the sharpness of the original. At 150 minutes, “Dead Man’s Chest” is a long movie, and even with near-continuous action, it feels its length.

Stealing treasure from undead pirates was good fun in the first movie, but the fantastic villain of the sequel leaves a lot to be desired.

A squid-headed Davy Jones, the mythical devil of the sea, chases Sparrow, who has sold him his soul. Jones looks more like a creature out of Star Wars than a pirate villain, and an encounter between Will and his supposedly dead father extends the parallel into a bad parody of George Lucas’ blockbuster series.

To compensate for a weak plot and sometimes flimsy dialogue, the film is long on battle scenes. Some are pleasantly comic, while others are repetitive struggles between sailors and huge octopus tentacles. The film is rated PG-13 for some frightening images.

Special effects are good and the film features a few creative camera shots. Disney also slightly ups the sexual tension in the Sparrow-Swann-Turner love triangle and even includes a few mildly suggestive jokes. But this film’s flaws outnumber its endearing qualities.

For example, “Pirates” is set in the Caribbean and has many black extras, but the only real black character – a seductive shaman named Tia Dalma, played by Naomie Harris – speaks in stereotypical Jamaican English bad enough to be offensive.

Any chance the swashbuckling sequel had to redeem itself is squandered at the finish: the movie ends abruptly just after the villain from the first film appears and blatantly sets the stage for a third sequel. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is already filming and set to come out next year.

Despite its flaws, “Dead Man’s Chest” has already proved itself to be a crowd-pleaser, breaking records during its first weekend in the United States and bringing in $132 million in three days.

 

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