'Pirates' offers mind-numbing ride

Part of what makes a thrill ride fun is knowing that it's a momentary adventure.

The passenger can absorb a quick combination of velocity, twists and a few scares en route to mindless entertainment. Then it's off to the bumper cars or snack bar.

As the only film series to take its name and concept from a Disney theme park attraction, the sequel "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" is very much like one of these rides. Trouble is that the movie doesn't know when the ride should end.

At more than two-and-a-half hours, this second installment veers toward overkill. Even with all the creativity and talent concerned, the swashbuckling effort eventually becomes mind-numbing.


Walt Disney Pictures Photo

Johnny Depp repels multiple threats in the action-packed sequel "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

Expectations were low in 2003 prior to the release of the original "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl." But the picture delivered on all counts, thanks to some spirited direction from Gore Verbinski and a truly eccentric performance from Johnny Depp as loopy Captain Jack Sparrow (which earned him an Oscar nomination).

The flick also grossed more than $300 million stateside, thus ensuring a run of sequels.

With Depp, Verbinski and the rest of the principal cast returning, expectations are now high. In certain respects, these expectations are met. The story of Sparrow searching for Davy Jones' locker provides the foundation for wall-to-wall action involving cannibals, giant sea creatures, voodoo priestesses, the Flying Dutchman and oodles of swordfights.

Review **1/2

Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images Length: 2 hours, 34 minutes Theater: Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa

As per the first movie, betrothed Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom) find themselves in a pickle because of Sparrow, who always has an ulterior motive for his behavior.

"There will come a moment when you have the chance to do the right thing," Elizabeth tells him.

Sparrow replies, "I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by."


Walt Disney Pictures Photo

Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom concoct a way to avoid the hangman in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

The film begins with the two lovers being threatened with execution by the Crown unless they can retrieve an enchanted item that Sparrow keeps on his person. Meanwhile, the fabled Davy Jones (the reliably intimidating Bill Nighy) has come to collect his debt from the captain.

Explaining any more would be pretending to fully understand the enormously convoluted story.

"Dead Man's Chest" features one of those plots where the hero must find this, then go here. Once there, he must locate something else that will tell him how to go to another place. Factor in that there are multiple heroes on tangential quests, and it's easy to see why the perplexity of the tale swells with each act.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest **


Like the thrill ride that inspired it, this sequel generates velocity, twists and a few scares. Trouble is that the ride never seems to end. The lengthy swashbuckling effort - which finds Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) running afoul of the briny Davy Jones - eventually becomes a mind-numbing attraction.

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Where the sequel scores most is in staging elaborate action sequences, which don't necessitate much thinking on the audience's part. The first involves an escape from an island of flesh-eating natives in which the captured pirates utilize their circular cage like one of those plastic hamster balls. The second is a three-way duel between Sparrow, Will and former commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) atop a giant dislodged water wheel. The choreography of these bits is relentlessly clever.

The blockbuster also earns points for its sheer weirdness.

Particularly bizarre (and borderline revolting) are the occupants of the Flying Dutchman. Davy Jones himself has a squid for a head and a crab claw for a hand, and the condemned souls who make up his crew look like byproducts of Dr. Moreau experimenting with an aquarium. There's a pirate with a hammerhead shark face, and others fused with various fish, crustaceans and all things briny.

It's hard to tell where the makeup ends and the special effects begin.

"Dead Man's Chest" is kind of "The Empire Strikes Back" of the series: It builds to a frenetic but unresolved finale that sets up part three, which was shot simultaneously by Verbinski and will be released in May.

Hopefully, that next cinematic ride will be a little more concise.


Godot 11 years, 8 months ago

My geeky son saw the "Pirates of the Carribean: Davey Jones' Chest," and said it was "AWWWWESSSSOMMME," and that I just had to see it, so I grabbed spouse by the hand and went to the twilight special. Having thoroughly enjoyed the first "Pirates," my expectations were high.

The end result was frustration.

The special effects in "Pirates of the Carribean: Davey Jones' Chest" completely undo the outstanding acting and clever writing and directing (of people) that deliver some laugh-at-loud, enjoyable moments in the flick. I cannot say enough about the extraordinarily high calibre of the actors ( except Elizabeth Swann, who is clearly out of her league when she results to pouting and 21st century body and verbal slang, while the rest of the cast sustain their characterizations without a slip). Johnny Depp is in top form as the swishy, sodden Cap'n Jack. We just need to see more of him.

Tia Dalma delivers a tour-de-force characterization as the voodoo queen. She channels Jodie Foster's "Nell" for her dialect, making the audience strain to understand, yet making her coded messages perfectly clear with her expression.

Characters and story line and beautiful scenery made the first Pirates a joy to watch; this movie shorts the characters in favor of special effects, and makes us suffer through endless scenes of the dark, frightening and disgusting underworld of Davey Jones. If I hadn't been in the middle of the row at the theatre, I would have left half way through. But,then I would have missed some of the best scenes, actually.

I began to feel that I was experiencing the story board for a thrill ride at Disney World, brought to excrutiatingly gorey film life.

I hope the third movie is a "resurrection," full of light, and hope, and quirky characters, and fun - NOT gorey special effects and gloom, not one that is not meant to be translated into a Disney ride, and overloaded with geeky effects, but remembered for its detail of character, fine acting and comic timing.

I hope. One thing I know for sure. If said geeky son says he likes the third "Pirates," (he always seems to make to opening night for new movies) I will wait until it comes out on DVD before I check it out.

allmine 11 years, 9 months ago

so has anyone seen it yet what is the scoop

plslucky3 11 years, 9 months ago

It seems to me as though Jon Niccum tends to give bad reviews to almost any blockbuster movie, or any mainstream movie for that matter. Has he actually liked a movie that wasn't played at Liberty Hall?

as_I_live_and_breathe 11 years, 9 months ago

It has Johnny Depp. How could you even care about anything else???

Aileen Dingus 11 years, 9 months ago

Saw it today- not bad, but definitely a movie made to set up a third installment.

The water wheel scenes though- kick ass!

kshaff03 11 years, 9 months ago

I give it 6 out of 10. Loved the first one, this wasn't nearly as good. Second half of the movie was quite good, but the first half was terrible.

My friends liked it better than I did, so I might be a little too critical. Worth seeing though.

allmine 11 years, 9 months ago

was cool and leaves you just waiting for #3 any one know the date for that one??

Jillster 11 years, 9 months ago

Saw this last night. Gawd, there is TOO much going on in this movie, but it's still too much fun! The head of the East India Company (wanting to corner the shipping/trading market in the area) has had Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner arrested on the authority of the King (going over Miss Swann's father's authority). He intends to use the threat of execution to motivate Will to go find Capt. Sparrow and offer him a "letter of marque" (basically a free pass to pirate on behalf of the Crown) in exchange for the magical item mentioned in the review. In the mix are almost the entire pack of lovable (?) characters from the first movie, all of whom seem to be out for the same prize, and all of whom seem to have each other over a barrel in a complicated web of obligation, double-crossing, and outright blackmail. There are new characters, too, including Tia Dalma, the voodoo queen, and also Will's father, "Bootstrap Bill" Turner, condemned to serve for eternity on Davey Jone's ship, the Flying Dutchman. (Keep an eye on the heart-shaped necklace Jack plunders from Tia Dalma. That might be a clue to mysteries resolved in movie three.)

The movie ends on quite the cliffhanger, with Elizabeth Swann bitterly regretting her own attempt at piratical amorality. A surprise in the very last scene blew me completely away, and anxious to see the next installment!

For those who stay through the end credits, there's one final, humorous moment involving the key-grabbing dog from the jailhouse. (Yes, he's back, too...for a little while, at least!)

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