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With: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Stellan Skarsgard, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images
Running Time: 150
Date: 06/24/2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bottle of Ho-Hum

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the early days, when an actor and a character clicked, such as Fred and Ginger, William Powell and Myrna Loy in the "Thin Man" or Johnny Weissmuller as "Tarzan," studios set out to make more movies exactly like the one that worked.

It would have been terrific to see another movie just as clever and surprising as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) with Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow at the helm. But the rule today is that the sequel has to be bigger, louder, faster and more. It has to sprint and bounce and throw fireballs at the back row, guaranteeing that more popcorn is munched and more soda slurped.

And, inevitably, bigger is not always better. The new Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is a crushing letdown. What's more, no one remembered that the original film hinged on Depp's crafty performance, packed like a pi´┐Żata full of goodies and adorned with dangling knickknacks.

Now we get far too little of Depp and far too much of the sober, stagnant Orlando Bloom as Will Turner. On the verge of marrying the lovely Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley -- here with nothing to do), the young couple is arrested for their involvement with Sparrow. Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) of the East India Trading Company cuts Will a deal. If he can bring back Sparrow's compass, he and Elizabeth can go free.

Of course, the compass is part of a complex treasure hunt that involves a key and a box and Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), who has a squid for a head with a face full of tentacles. (He uses them to stroke the keys of his pipe organ.) Jones' crew likewise looks like a mutated aquarium, and includes Will Turner's dad, Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgard).

Director Gore Verbinski takes the minor delights that worked well in the first film -- such as the Laurel and Hardy-like sidekicks played by Mackenzie Crook and Lee Arenberg -- and expands them to the size of subplots, so that no small bits remain. The new film is all bombast, and it reeks of desperation, like a class clown who tries to repeat a joke a second, third and fourth time to no avail.

Depp, however, is still remarkable and pulls off more than a few tricks with a brilliant comedian's crackle. The chunk of time he's on screen (about half the movie's overlong 150 minutes) is worth savoring.

It's not over, though. Verbinski shot this film and the as yet untitled Pirates of the Caribbean Part 3 back-to-back. With that in mind, this one ends on a cliffhanger and "Part 3" isn't scheduled to open until next May.

See also: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)

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