Latest Pirates dead on arrival.
By Colin Covert
The Pirates of the Caribbean descend to new depths with Dead Men Tell No Tales. Padding out its muddled 153 minutes with the sluggish pace of a funeral barge, it marks the ignominious low of a once-great series. It lacks yo-ho-ho. The usual template is mostly in place, with well-established characters doing precisely what we expect of them. Johnny Depp returns as the louche, rum-swilling Captain Jack Sparrow, the best known and most profitable role of his career. Geoffrey Rush is on hand once again as his sworn enemy Barbossa, complete with the cheeky monkey that rides his shoulder. There is a mystic treasure to be plundered, blockades from the British fleet and ghostly freebooters to ram, and brief class reunion appearances by lovebirds Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, who were dropped from the last chapter. For a spoonful of novelty, newcomer Javier Bardem adds the vengeful spirit of Captain Salazar, a Spanish ghoul far less frightening than he could be. The script is reheated leftovers from the earlier films, plus some sideline issues about parenthood. Keith Richards doesn't reprise his role as Jack's father, but Paul McCartney shows up for a quick cameo as Jack's Uncle Jack. What's missing is a sense of tight focus and valuable purpose. Like the first four Pirates movies, this is a lavish production, but unlike its predecessors this isn't a pretty sight. The production values feel sloppy and rushed, with most of the story occurring in the dark of night or under the deep blue sea. The supernatural episodes of the story are packed with computer-generated ghosts whose half-decayed cadavers look like badly snipped-out photographs. The living cast members don't shine, either. Depp doesn't have all his dramatic cylinders firing in this performance. His entry in the first film was unforgettable, a mincing tiptoe off a fast-sinking ship and onto the dock. This time, he's introduced essentially asleep, which is comedy fool's gold at best. His limited time in the action spotlight, with Jack's head trapped at the base of a whirling guillotine, doesn't approach his nutty swordfight atop a giant water wheel in 2006's Dead Man's Chest. This chapter veers far from the three enormously entertaining introductory films from director Gore Verbinski. They achieved their challenging goal, transforming a Disneyland kiddie ride into a swashbuckling global juggernaut. Disney helped keep the tone fresh by filming the second and third films back to back. Then Verbinski exited, the studio placed a revolving door on the director's office, and the leaks began. The fourth film, On Stranger Tides, arriving in 2011 after a four-year delay with director Rob Marshall (Chicago) at the helm, was a flagrant effort to continue milking a cash cow. Dead Men squeezes those teats until Bossy moos in agony. Norwegian co-directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, whose 2012 Kon-Tiki turned explorer Thor Heyerdahl's legendary crossing of the Pacific on a balsawood raft into an oceangoing epic, drift off course here. Granted, it's difficult material to handle. The screenplay by Jeff Nathanson (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) tries to squeeze a half-dozen double entendre gags from the story's scientific proto-feminist ingenue (Kaya Scodelario) is a skilled horologist. Rimshot! The directing team deserves only partial blame for what goes wrong. Comedy doesn't translate smoothly across cultures, and the sharks that threatened Heyerdahl onscreen weren't the half-decomposed zombie demons that swish and snap at the cast here. Not that dead fish rotting from the head are the best images for a film like this. The main plot point of the film is that every ship is racing to seize the trident of Poseidon, which is said to cure any curse suffered at sea. Someone should have directed it at Dead Men?'s editing room. - Star Tribune (Minneapolis) DVDs courtesy: Saqr Entertainment Stores, Doha
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