Admittedly, I came to this party quite late. I did not see this film
when it first premiered and was excoriated by my critical brothers and
sisters. I suppose I was influenced by all the bad word of mouth (in
spite of the huge box office). I mean, there is a big disconnect between
what critics like and what appeals to the general public. A box office
success does not guarantee artistic merit. I'm always reminded of what
Lincoln said about fooling some of the people some of the time.

  Also, I had really liked
THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL perhaps
more than some others. That film was a pleasant surprise -- an
enjoyable romp anchored by Johnny Depp's masterful comic performance.
It had its flaws, the simpering lovers played by Orlando Bloom and
Keira Knightley, did nothing for me, but I was able to overlook them
and take the ride as it were.

  So watching
DEAD MAN'S CHEST on DVD in preparation for
the release of the third part of the trilogy, I was somewhat surprised.
I enjoyed the movie. Yes, the plot is complicated and nonsensical.
Yes, director Gore Verbinski relies too much on set pieces that go
on a bit too long. Orlando Bloom still cannot command the screen
and Keira Knightley in male drag is about as believable as Madonna
playing -- well portraying almost any role other than Madonna. And yet,
I had a ball watching the film as it careened from set piece to set piece,
whether it be a chase scene, a sword fight or a battle on the seas.

  The complex plot revolves around control of the oceans and
the heart of Davy Jones, a squid-faced sea captain with tentacles for
a beard (portrayed under layers of latex and makeup by Bill Nighy).
Jones' heart has been removed and buried in a remote location and
whomever gets hold of it will control him and thereby the seas.

  It also seems that there's some unfinished business between
Jones and Jack Sparrow (Depp reprising his Oscar-nominated role) and
true to his Machiavellian nature, Sparrow concocts a ploy to settle what
he owes. That his plan involves Will Turner (a bland Bloom) leads to
an unwitting reunion between Will and his father Bootstrap Bill (Stellan
Skarsgård).

  Knightley also has father issues as her dad (Jonathan Pryce)
finds himself impotent and in the control of Cutler Beckett (Tom
Hollander at his oleaginous best), the nefarious representative of the
East India Company.

  I suppose what might have raised objections among reviewers
is the way in which Verbinski has staged some of the sequences.
Clearly, he has been influenced by animated films and many of the
action sequences veer perilously close to cartoon-like action. I would
submit that choices like that are what make the films so enjoyable
for a mass audience. They are seeing something extraordinary; the
special effects are not run of the mill but tweaked to a level that
almost seems like a video game.

  
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST is what
I term a "popcorn flick," an enjoyable genre romp (and we really haven't
had a decent pirate film in ages). Depp once again proves a masterful
comic performer and there are nice turns from Hollander, Nighy, Jack
Davenport and Noemi Harris. The film ends somewhat abruptly but it
does serve as a perfect set up for the final part of the trilogy.


          
Rating:                    B
          
MPAA Rating:        PG-13 for intense sequences of
                                               adventure violence, including
                                               frightening images
          
Running time:        151 mins.
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Pirates of the Caribbean:
Dead Man's Chest