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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Holly Martins heads to the multiplex to find Pirates

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by Holly Martins, for outsideleft.com
originally published: July, 2006
My favorite comment about this movie is from my friend Lynne, who upon seeing a picture of Davy Jones in all his tentacled glory said, "Wow, I'd like to sit on his face."

I'm an enormous fan of the first Pirates of the Caribbean film and so it was with unreasonably heightened expectations that I traipsed off to the theater to see its sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, where I was joined by 8,000,000 goth girls in pirate garb going "Arr." I was drowsy and mildly cranky, so I was looking forward to being buoyed into wakefulness by the enthusiasm of 8,000,000 excitable goth girls.

The three principals from the first film, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) return for more buckle-swashing and derring-do. There's a convoluted plot involving cannibals, martyred father issues, activities that require Johnny Depp to run around like a little girl, racially uncomfortable situations, and dealings with Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), a fantastically tentacled fiend of the deep. Davy is by far the most interesting character in the film; he's a morose, tragic figure who surely would not have turned to a life of evil-doing had he gone to my therapist instead. He would have taught inmates how to play piano, is what he would have done.

There is not much to say about Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley except that the experience of watching them act is like watching two Barbie dolls being handled by a bored 5-year-old. Johnny Depp plays the rogue pirate with elan, but not much else.

This is a big splashy summer movie, and thus it is abundant with impressive explosions and special effects. In fact, they're so abundant that after the umpteenth explosion, I became inured to the narrative and entered a sort of trance state wherein I was unable to attach any meaning to what I was watching. Unless it was something I could mock later. Everything went by in a kind of visual slurry that was actually pleasantly soporific though occasionally interrupted by some head-slapping bad acting.

My favorite comment about this movie is from my friend Lynne, who upon seeing a picture of Davy Jones in all his tentacled glory said, "Wow, I'd like to sit on his face." The movie would have benefited by such a scene, and also by some deft editing - - the thing is 2.5 hours long, which is a very long time if you drank a Venti latte to stay awake through the midnight screening. Tragically, the goth girls let me down - - they squealed and shrieked through the first half hour of the film but were disturbingly quiet for the rest. Too, too quiet.

The final installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy arrives next summer and one hopes it will come festooned with character development and a cohesive narrative. Sturm und drang is fine, but two and a half hours of incoherent sturm und drang will fail to shiver this reviewer's timbers.

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