Posted: 07/18/2006


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest


by Dianne Lawrence

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Captain Jack Sprat is back in the rollicking summer blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest” directed by Gore Verbinski. It is the second offering in the Pirates franchise based on the popular Disneyland ride.

Our Heroine Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and hero Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) are about to wed when they are captured and thrown into prison by the dastardly Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander).

Apparently their previous assistance to Pirate Jack (Johnny Depp) was not fully appreciated by the authorities. In truth it’s a ruse to force Will to find Jack and convince him to give up a magical compass he is in possession of and Mr. Beckett covets. It is a critical item in the search for a treasure chest that holds an object much more valuable than gold. For Jack it contains the secret to freedom from a debt he owes the villain from the deep, Davy Jones. Of course our heroine Elizabeth escapes and sets off to find her lover, Will, who is looking for Jack, who is looking for the key and the treasure and who is being sought after by Davy Jones, who is on his way to collect Jack for eternal duty.

The writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott have created a script that is a big ice cream cone with possibly too many toppings but we are able to slip and slide our way through this fun house ride with the able direction of Gore Verbinski. He doesn’t miss a shiver timbering beat in the dazzling special effects or the exhilarating action sequences as we watch Jack lie, charm and stumble his way out of the endless misadventures he encounters in his effort to avoid spending eternity on Davy Jones’s crew.

It’s not a stretch to imagine that the record-busting opening was due in great measure to the charm and charisma that Johnny Depp brings to this bad boy of the sea. One of the most interesting and versatile actors working today, Mr. Depp claims he modeled the character on Keith Richards, a contemporary rock n’ roll pirate. In this sequel he ratchets it up a notch adding a very “swish”buckling swagger to his gate and his drunken under the breath mumbles reminded my of the asides Popeye the Sailorman used to mutter. Sitting at the Captain’s desk he wonders why there is never any rum. He gets up and staggers forward mumbling “oh… that’s why.” He is hilarious as the anti-pirate. If there is a brave bone in his body he is saving it for a special occasion (which does come) and he would clearly rather run with his Keystone cop stride, than charge. Unfortunately Orlando Bloom’s charms get swept up in the maelstrom and Keira Knightley doesn’t carry the weight needed to be an action heroine but there are notable performances in many of the character actors we meet along the way, in particular Naomi Harris as Tia Dalma, the witchy sorceress. Her performance is outstanding and she can clearly match Mr. Depp’s charisma and colorfulness. The screen jumps to life when she appears and she is someone worth paying attention to. The other big attractions are the amazing special effects by the remarkable artists at Industrial Light and Magic. Davy Jones (the excellent Bill Nighy) and his crew have morphed into half men, half sea-creatures and the make-up and design are spectacular. Davy’s head is one big octopus with each tentacle seeming to have a life of its own. One had the reaction to this creation that all magicians love to hear…”how did they DO that?” There was a lot to look at whenever Davy’s crew was in view as even the background characters provided a source of entertaining attention. There are going to be a few nominations in the make-up and special effects department.

Despite the top heavy plot, this series provides everything you could ask for in a family summer blockbuster and the series sets a new standard for this classic tale of naughty pirates, distressed damsels and ghosts from the deep.

Dianne Lawrence is a film critic and artist living in Los Angeles. You can check out her artistic work here.

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