July 6, 2006

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (PG-13)
The gang (Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp) returns for another round of yo-ho-ho-ing in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.

Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) is waiting for her fiance Will Turner (Bloom) to show up at their wedding. She's waiting all forlorn and in the rain — the universal visual of a wedding that's not going to happen. And, as it turns out, instead of a honeymoon, the young couple are in fact headed to jail. Will and Elizabeth are both imprisoned for helping out Commodore James Norrington (Jack Davenport), a discredited member of His Majesty's Navy who, in the last movie, was the stuffy fiancé Elizabeth eventually leaves for Will. The evil Lord Culter Beckett (Tom Hollander) makes a proposition to Will. He'll let Elizabeth and Will go free if Will finds Capt. Jack Sparrow (Depp) and gets from him his magical compass. Why? Because Lord Beckett is looking for Davy Jones' (Bill Nighy) chest and he wants the compass to point the way.

Oddly enough, Jack is also looking for Davy Jones' chest — it contains Jones' heart (long story) and he who controls it controls Jones, which would be good for Jack because he's into the pirate for his soul. If Jack can't find the chest, he'll have to spend 100 years on Jones' ghostly ship the Flying Dutchman with the rest of the zombiefied crew, slowly turning into a barnacle encrusted sea creature.

So Will sets off to look for Jack and shortly Elizabeth escapes to go look for Will and they're all looking for the chest and avast ye mateys, it's time for a fight on the high sees.

Arrrh!

I was honestly looking forward to this movie — no surprise because it's being hailed as the biggest movie since forever, I guess, except I didn't really like the first one. I liked Johnny Depp's drunken-loon performance; I have enjoyed watching him get nuttier and nuttier over the years. And I even enjoyed the scenery chomping camp of Geoffrey Rush. But there was too much buckle, not enough swash. Neither Bloom nor Knightley put much wind in my sail and there was a little too much of their limp love story to movie the first movie from occasionally amusing to cheesetacular.

And here lies my problem with the second movie. All the stuff I didn't like about Curse of the Black Pearl seems to have returned in double force. More Elizabeth being silly and indecisive about men. More Will being heroic, sure, but stiffly so. More silly sight-gags for the young brothers and sisters dragged along with the rest of the family. More hey-just-like-the-ride for those who have recently been to Disney.

But less of the things I actually enjoyed.

Instead of the happy lush that Jack Sparrow was in the first movie, this second movie attempts to give him depth which is the exact opposite way to go with a character this clownish. Depp is no longer an eccentric actor playing a toss off role in a movie based on a theme park attraction. He's an Oscar-nominated lead in a franchise. So while there are still moments of caddish charm and the occasional clever physical hijinks (the final third of the movie includes a pretty cool extended sword fighting scene) now he tries to act. Yick.

Even yicker was the realization at the end of the movie that it wasn't just a sequel but the bridge act of a trilogy. And unlike Empire Strikes Back or X-Men2, this isn't an action-packed tale with a down ending that left me hungry for more. No, like the walking dead on the Flying Dutchmen, the cliff-hanger made me feel like I'd just sold my soul for an eternity (or at least another two hours) of damnation. C


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