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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Lackluster and Way Too Long

The first film in this trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, was surprisingly funny and entertaining. Unfortunately, its follow-up is neither. Clocking in at 150 minutes (which really feels more like four hours), the movie loses steam long before the credits roll.

Dead Man's Chest suffers like all second installments in trilogies suffer. It's not as exciting as the initial film, which establishes the story and hooks fans, and not nearly as riveting as the conclusion, which ties all the lose ends together and usually packs an explosive denouement. It falls to the film sandwiched in between to move the story along. As a result, Dead Man's Chest is overstuffed. Simply put: there's too much going on.

The usual suspects, for better or worse, return in this sequel. Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) are arrested on their wedding day by an officious proprietor, Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), heading the Caribbean outpost of the East India Trading Company, who issues Turner an ultimatum: find Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), fetch his (supposedly broken) compass, have him submit his ship and services to British jurisdiction and in exchange he will free Ms. Swann and issue each a full pardon. Of course, the naÔve and blindly brave Will accepts and dashes off to search for Sparrow all over the seas.

As always, Sparrow is caught up in one of his schemes. Years earlier he had made a deal with a supernatural half squid/ half-human captain, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), who controls a much feared sea monster and, in turn, controls the sea, to save the Black Pearl and keep the ship as his own. And like a loan shark, Jones has returned for payment. In this case, the payment is Sparrow's soul, which he hopes to keep by finding a mysterious chest that holds the key for his salvation. When Will finally finds him, Sparrow, as expected, dupes him into his scheming. Meanwhile, Elizabeth breaks out of jail and goes in search of both men.

There are so many twists and turns in Dead Man's Chest that the characters suffer as a result. Bloom and Knightley are practically relegated to the background and unlike The Curse of the Black Pearl where Depp was the clear star, Nighy is the scene-stealer here outshining Depp's efforts by far. Sparrow no longer holds the same allure and, as in the harsh light of day after a long night of drinking, you see him in an entirely different way. Instead of coming off as funny and as a charming cad, he just comes off as cruel and irrevocably selfish. His antics are not amusing. Nighy, on the other hand, is charismatic and intriguing even as the movie's villain. Indeed the most amazing part of the film is the special effects surrounding Davy Jones and his grotesque half-sea creature/half human crew.

While there are one or two well-staged scenes, in particular, one involving hostile natives, some very tricky choreography and a good deal of physical comedy, the majority of the film is swallowed up by the various schemes and characters meant to move the story along towards the final installment. Those who suffer from short attention spans, i.e. young children, adolescents, and those who are caffeinated, will find it especially difficult to sit through Dead Man's Chest in its entirety.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars