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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Almost Too Much of a Good Thing"
4 stars

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” contains many of the same attributes seen in the original 2003 film–a freewheeling plot consisting of equal parts swashbuckling action and silly humor, plenty of icky creatures, a cast of characters including gallant heroes, creepy villains sexy heroines and, most importantly, a central performance from Johnny Depp that starts off over the top and proceeds from there. The one thing that it doesn’t have–the one thing that none of the zillions that went into its production budget could possibly buy–is the sense of novelty that the first film had. When that one came out, most people assumed that it was going to be just a shameless cash-in effort by a studio so desperate for material that they were reduced to ransacking their theme park rides for inspiration. When audiences discovered that it was better than expected, they were so excited that they were even willing to overlook its obvious flaws–mostly a rambling screenplay and a running time that was about 30 minutes longer than necessary. Now that the surprise is gone, “Dead Man’s Chest” has to stand on its own merits and the film reveals itself to be–surprise–a relatively entertaining film that is often hobbled by a rambling screenplay and a running time about 30 minutes longer than necessary.

Picking up soon after the first film ended, “Dead Man’s Chest” opens as the wedding of lovebirds Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is interrupted when both are arrested by the loathsome Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) and sentenced to death for aiding in the escape of wanted fugitive Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp). Will makes a deal with Beckett–he will track down Sparrow and retrieve the magical compass that Cutler desires in exchange for a pardon–and sets sail in pursuit of his quarry. Before long, he tracks Sparrow, along with other crew members of the Black Pearl, to a distant island where the natives worship him as a god. Unfortunately for him, these natives have a tendency to eat their gods in order to release their spirits into the world. I wouldn’t dream of revealing what happens during the extended action set-piece that follows but it is interesting to note that the same week that gives us, in “A Scanner Darkly,” an animated film that goes to extraordinary lengths to look like live-action also gives us a live-action film that goes to extraordinary lengths to look like a cartoon.

What passes for a plot revolves around a deal that Sparrow struck years ago with the loathsome Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), a long-dead buccaneer who resides on the Flying Dutchman with his half-man/half-fish/all-undead crew, for the Black Pearl in exchange for his soul. Naturally, Sparrow wants to save his own skin and sends Will over in his place. This doesn’t set well with Davy and he demands that Sparrow provide him with 100 souls in three days under penalty of a fate worse than death. After a half-hearted attempt to coerce potential souls in Tortuga–a stop that reunites him with both Elizabeth (who escaped from jail during all of this) and her former fiancee, the now-desperate Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport)–Sparrow decides to try to find the legendary “Dead Man’s Chest,” a long-buried chest belonging to Davy that contains a still-beating heart that promises everlasting life and control of the seas to its owner. This leads to a number of wild swordfights, unexpected reunions, attacks by zombie pirates and the fearsome Kraken, plenty of cliff-hangers and what may be the first non-self-serving act performed by Sparrow in his lifetime.

All of this is fun for a while but the problem with a film like “Dead Man’s Chest” is that a tone of sustained whimsy can only be maintained for so long in a film before it starts to get a little wearying. (If you doubt this, try watching “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” sometime.) By trying so hard to thrill, dazzle and amuse us in every single scene, the filmmakers never give their efforts the kind of breathing room required to fully appreciate their efforts. Take the first set-piece involving the escape from the cannibal island–for a while, it is a genuinely hilarious slapstick ballet on a scale not seen since Steven Spielberg’s throughly underrated “1941" but it goes on for so long that it winds up peaking long before it ends. This happens throughout and by the end, what should have been a priceless example of slapstick stunting (a three-way duel fought atop a enormous runaway water wheel) just kind of lies there. Adding to the problem is that screenwriters Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio and director Gore Verbinski (all returning from the first film) apparently didn’t heed the criticisms that the original was too long for its own good–while that one could have lost 20 minutes easily, “Dead Man’s Chest” takes approximately 105 minutes of top-notch entertainment and packs it into a 156-minute running time.

At the same time, I am still recommending “Dead Man’s Chest” for many of the same reasons that I recommended the first film. Although they go on far too long, the action set-pieces are an ingenious blend of practical effects, elaborate CGI creations and impressive fight choreography. The storyline deftly moves from high melodrama to low comedy to creepy horror (like the first film, this one is rated PG-13 and parents should heed that when considering whether or not to bring the wee ones) with nary a hiccup and ends on a note that should have everyone salivating for the other sequel coming out next summer. As for the performances, Nighy (the man underneath various motion-capture devices in the same manner as Andy Serkis in the “Lord of the Rings” films) is appropriately loathsome and icky as Davy Jones, Knightley is appropriately spunky and delightful as Elizabeth (not to mention quite fetching when decked out in a tri-cornered hat) and Bloom is . . . Bloom is the boring and blandly handsome straight man that no one notices because everyone else gets all the colorful material.

The real selling point of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise is, once again, the magnificently fruity performance by Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Once famously based on Keith Richards (though one could also detect traces of Depp’s late pals Hunter S. Thompson and Marlon Brando as well), he has here taken the role far beyond the realm of mere impression into the kind of demented realm that only the most supremely confident of performers ever dare to enter. Most actors would shy away from a role like Sparrow for fear of coming off as ridiculous. Here, no matter how strange the circumstances–whether he is tied to a barbecue spit or battling oddball creatures or demonstrating that the monkey in his possession is indeed undead–Depp always figures out a way to put an additional spin on the material via his hilariously mannered approach. In a film that comes close to proving that there really can be too much of a good thing, Depp somehow manages to leave audiences hungry for more.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14738&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/07/06 01:23:56
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User Comments

2/23/09 Chris Whoever wrote the review at the top has no idea what they're talking about. 5 stars
1/20/09 Anonymous. the worst of the trilogy, disappointing. :/ 3 stars
1/14/09 Shaun Wallner Depp is a great actor. 5 stars
11/30/08 Roz Not as good as the first. Plot was an absolute mess. 3 stars
11/30/08 noops.... had grt expectations frm this but disappointed... 3 stars
6/01/08 R.W. Welch Overdone, overbroad, and overlong. 2 stars
1/04/08 Pamela White vague plot but effects make it interesting 3 stars
8/12/07 Annonomiss 2nd film of trilogy was SO hokey and Disneyed up. Waste of film. 1 stars
6/16/07 Tiffany Losco awesome, loved it. Johnny depp great sexy 5 stars
5/31/07 Ionicera better than the reviews led me to believe 4 stars
5/24/07 Tracey Chambers good movie, but I was exhausted when it was over 3 stars
5/24/07 runes one way, way too many plotlines...even the dog got a plotline...wack!? 1 stars
5/16/07 carlie beautiful movie!!!! i love piratres of the caribbean !!!! and i have the book!!! super 5 stars
4/26/07 Sharlatan the 1st was wicked wtf happened the dog moment and cage swing ws only good bits nothtfunny 2 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK Twice as long and half as good as the original. thank god that Mr Depp saves the day. 3 stars
1/18/07 movieman great movie 5 stars
1/05/07 Watch This Movie! Very good, had just as much momentum as the first. Entertaining and fun. 5 stars
12/28/06 Samantha Fields I love pirates of the caribbean 1 & 2 , its funny and can be scary !!! 5 stars
12/26/06 Keelie liked it... ending couldve been better but i think it is much clearer now.... 4 stars
12/25/06 bullit16 Seriously? You're kidding, right? 2 stars
12/17/06 Thealizia The scene were they were were fighting on the wheel was over dramatic 2 stars
12/14/06 Charles Tatum On par with the original, Depp steals his scenes again 4 stars
12/07/06 Ron Better than the first 4 stars
12/05/06 Dude Hilarious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 5 stars
11/22/06 Austin Wertman BETTER THAN THE FIRST 5 stars
11/14/06 reena wful, just awful. arbitrary events dont make a good movie... 1 stars
11/13/06 gracie this was th best movie ever. you suck! 5 stars
10/24/06 Drew G Good sequel to a great movie 4 stars
10/16/06 David Very disappointing 2 stars
10/13/06 Helen Cannot be missed! Savvy? 5 stars
9/28/06 ES A movie worse than the first one, now that's quite a feat 1 stars
9/25/06 Kayla I love this movie so much! The first one was better but even that one had its ups and downs 5 stars
9/21/06 JohnnyFaye I love reading peoples far fetched "I hate" reasons for this movie...haha It's a sweetmovie 5 stars
9/20/06 Pritchett The first one sucked and so does this one. 1 stars
9/16/06 ad lengthy 3 stars
9/13/06 Mara Frost Once again, Johnny Depp is great! Also fun stunts and creature makeup. 5 stars
9/12/06 Agent Sands A disappointment, with perhaps 2 entertaining scenes. 3 stars
9/06/06 bosh not really 2 stars
9/04/06 Ricardo very entertaining 5 stars
9/02/06 Christopher Stucky Didn't expect much, but really liked it... just like the first one. 4 stars
9/01/06 van zwaar ...yarr 2 stars
8/23/06 Chad Thomas Johnny Depp is great! 4 stars
8/21/06 G Sherfy Projector died at the end of the movie; I wasn't disappointed to miss the last 5 minutes. 3 stars
8/13/06 George This is movie is kinda lame 3 stars
8/06/06 Vincent Costa Entertaining 3 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant 15 Minutes in and I was wishing I was watching 'Superman Returns' again. Flaccid follow-up. 2 stars
8/04/06 TiGrBaLm Fast paced, action packed, John Sparrow ROCKS 4 stars
8/03/06 sulman mahmood good 4 stars
8/03/06 Sarah W totally awesome johnny depp was great!!!!! 5 stars
8/02/06 Mike V Too long but a lot of fun....It's Depp...enough said. 4 stars
8/01/06 Mase IF you liked the first you will probably like this, if not tedious and boring. 2 stars
7/29/06 ls All the things that made part 1 good are missing. Part 3 is gonna get downloaded 2 stars
7/29/06 Troy M. Grzych Action sequences were too long and drawn out. Visuals were cool. Movie slow. 4 stars
7/29/06 ahnold All visual. No plot. Nothing compelling. What's happened in hollywood? 1 stars
7/27/06 dj way too long!!! And there is no ending!! 2 stars
7/25/06 Quigley an awesome sequel that has some problems, but I ain't complaining. Depp is the man; see it 5 stars
7/24/06 jess Totally awesome! 5 stars
7/24/06 pin transition film, loose and disappointing. Will still see III 3 stars
7/24/06 Joyce Verhoeven For everyone whom has not seen this movie, watch it, because this movie is super 5 stars
7/23/06 malcolm near perfect blend of action/comedy, but really just half a movie 4 stars
7/22/06 Koitus Keira looked great; hard to understand Voodoo woman; suspicious ending! 3 stars
7/22/06 Agent Sands The 2 action sequences on islands were the only good parts of the movie. 3 stars
7/20/06 michaelb1478 a little overlong but still a fun movie 4 stars
7/20/06 Elizabeth S Some clever humorous action, but needs a major edit. 3 stars
7/19/06 ahnold Just another movie w/2 much action and no compelling plot 2 stars
7/19/06 Butt No treasure in this chest 2 stars
7/19/06 Suzz too long; heavy on special effects; lite on with; not enough Depp 3 stars
7/19/06 Ashley It's totally awesome!!! Cannot wait for the 3rd. I love Johnny Depp! 5 stars
7/18/06 Ole Man Bourbon A lot better than I was expecting. Forgettable, but entertaining. 4 stars
7/16/06 Jim Almost as good as the original 4 stars
7/14/06 Evil Wolfie Slightly less good then the first. 4 stars
7/14/06 MP Bartley Overstuffed, disjointed and silly, but still a giddily fun time. 4 stars
7/14/06 robo it does suck quite badly 2 stars
7/13/06 Somebody people who give it less than 5 stars are just too picky! 5 stars
7/13/06 Stanley Thai Better than the first but it's just too long. 4 stars
7/13/06 Nightjorn PIRATES OF THE CRAP-A-BEAN: THE WRATH OF CTHULHU!!!!! 1 stars
7/13/06 inty utter crap 1 stars
7/13/06 EZ I can't wait for the third one!! 5 stars
7/12/06 Agent Sands Way too long, disorganized, too many dead animals. Only 2 good scenes in the whole movie. 3 stars
7/12/06 Dan great movie to see 5 stars
7/12/06 Captain Highcrime Found myself wanting to hear the "Benny Hill" theme during some of sillier set-pieces 3 stars
7/11/06 Vicious Fun over-all, but it seemed to lack focus. 4 stars
7/11/06 JM Synth Some outstanding set-pieces, but Verbinski is yet another director who lacks restraint 3 stars
7/11/06 Roy I loved the first half but then I got bored 3 stars
7/11/06 Kent S Did I see the same film? I'm sorry but I'm frustrated and angry at the "end" of this movie 2 stars
7/10/06 hooplah could have used about 20 minutes of trimming and it'd be about perfect 4 stars
7/10/06 Kaitlin Reynolds I thought it was very long, confusing and hard to keep up with. 3 stars
7/10/06 Mike Fairly boring, way too long. Blah 2 stars
7/10/06 Jean Smolen The sequel was butt numbingly boring! 1 stars
7/10/06 NoRefill Way too long. Needs about an hour cut. Watching the original again might make it funnier. 3 stars
7/09/06 Richard Green Frequently tiresome, not all that funny. 3 stars
7/09/06 Doug Eh. 3 stars
7/09/06 John Doesn't have legs to stand on it's own. 2 stars
7/09/06 Bob No plot, not funny, and about two hours too long 1 stars
7/09/06 Steve-O An over-cooked 2.5 hour setup for what will hopefully be a much more exciting third movie 3 stars
7/09/06 sully needs about1 hour of editing, Johnny Depp 4 stars 4 stars
7/08/06 Mo Better than the first one 5 stars
7/08/06 Jon Gets pretty repetitive an dull 1 stars
7/07/06 Roy Started off great but then I got bored 3 stars
7/07/06 KingNeutron Only movie this year I'll see more than once. STAY4CREDITS 4 stars
7/07/06 Jambi I still can't believe people actually liked the first pile of mediocrity. 2 stars
7/07/06 Gerry Irons Very Silly 2 stars
7/07/06 asina started out weak, but REALLY picked up by the end. 4 stars
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  07-Jul-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 05-Dec-2006

  06-Jul-2006 (12A)

  06-Jul-2006 (M)

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