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"Pirates" comes stealing

Posted at 10:00 AM on July 5, 2006 by Euan Kerr

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" has its moments. Sadly there's usually quite a voyage between those moments. To make things worse, two and a half hours after this film slips anchor comes the discovery that the story is only half over. ('Pirates III' is due out next Memorial Day.)

Not that there is much of a plot. Basically the heroes of "Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl" are back, and compelled to search for a mysterious key. Everyone has different motivations: love, a pardon from the hangman's noose, or escape from eternal damnation, (the usual stuff.)

They head off and have a lot of adventures, and leave the audience with the task of trying to care. It's enough to make even a scurvy landlubber reach for his cutlass.

It's a shame, because this is a movie that has so much going for it: three of Hollywoods most bankable stars in Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, a superb supporting cast of character actors, and a special effects budget that would pay off the national debts of several small countries.

POTC2 also benefits from a huge Disney legacy of fun pirate films, whether it be "Treasure Island," "Blackbeard's Ghost" or even Kirk Douglas in "10,000 Leagues under the Sea." There are references to them all.

When it draws from that legacy, through the tongue-in-cheek dialog, or slapstick battles and chases, this movie is great. When Depp and Knightley get to talk to one another (or more likely square off) the screen lights up.

Sadly, this happens all too rarely.

Director Gore Verbinski wallows in the wonders of his special effects toy box, which are so numerous they devalue each other. The octapoidal face of Captain Davy Jones is remarkable, but a few more smart-alec one-liners from Bill Nighy, the man behind the tentacles, would have been welcome, and perhaps more cost effective.

And for those who are faint of heat, be warned there is a pretty high "ick" factor in this film. Rolling eyeballs, putrid corpses, and pulsating viscera are all regular parts of the seascape. The teenage boys will lap it up of course.

And it has to be said that it's just plain irksome how the movie just lurches to a halt and leaves an audience waiting for the next movie. Serial stories are fine, but it's a disservice to leave loose ends flapping all over the place. It's an ugly habit which Hollywood is developing whether it be Star Wars, or X-Men.

(Although news in todays paper that Keith Richards, the inspiration for Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow has signed on for POTC3 is VERY intriguing. I am such a sucker.)

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