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"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"

Directed by Gore Verbinski.
Written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio.
Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Bill Nighy.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  7/12/06


I didn't want to believe it after a grueling first 20 minutes, but by the time "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" was over, it easily entered the Shit Sequel Hall of Shame, sidling in alongside fellow entrants like "Back to the Future III", "The Matrix: Revolutions", "Lethal Weapon 4", and other films based on very good, highly successful first films in their respective series.  I don't think anyone would question that "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" was at least a good movie--I thought it was damn near perfect--and judging from the obscene record cash "Dead Man's Chest" made in just three days (more than $130 million, a stunning number), lots of people expected the sequel to be pretty close to what the first film was in terms of quality.

But, amazingly, "Dead Man's Chest" is incredibly worse than the first film at almost every angle, on almost every level.  Johnny Depp--nominated for an Oscar his first go-round--returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, head of the Black Pearl, a cursed ship that opens with Jack still in charge.  Jack runs into Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) in the galley one night, who passes on to him a dangerous curse that ensures Jack and his crew will eventually cross paths with the most dangerous ship on the open seas, The Flying Dutchman, captained by Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, from "Love Actually").  Meanwhile, our old friends Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) are arrested back at Fort Royal by a man named Beckett (Tom Hollander) for reasons that I can't explain, but to get out of the charges, Beckett forces Will to retrieve a faulty compass from Sparrow to free him of the charges.  Adventure ensues, or something.

From the jump, "Dead Man's Chest" is just not that much fun.  Worse, it takes almost all of the elements you loved about the original--great mix of laughs and action, Depp's off-the-wall performance, pirate-like behavior, Knightley looking great, Bloom and Depp trading one-liners--and minimizes or takes them out of the sequel altogether, and in its place, we get...nothing.  Save for the cool special effects of the Dutchman's crew and the Davy Jones make-up work, director Gore Verbinski decided all of the following would make this sequel work:

  1. Less action.  Usually in action-adventure sequels, you get MORE action, not less.  Nope, here in "Dead Man's Chest" the action is minimal and sadly, not very well orchestrated.  There are a lot of deaths at the "hands" of a giant fucking octopus.  The film's main set piece appears to be a three-way swordfight late in the film set on a giant wooden wheel, but it sucked and the stunt doubles didn't seem to be having much fun anyway.

  2. Less Depp, and when Depp is on-screen, not as funny, kooky or integral to the plot.  The sequel is longer than the original and yet there is less of the best asset of the series.  Why?

  3. A script that isn't nearly as funny.  Look, 200 people can't be wrong, and in my packed audience, at least half a dozen people went to get popcorn and never came back.  Yawns were heard throughout my screening.  Pauses clearly intended to cover laugh gaps in the dialogue pacing were left with tumbleweed blowing around my theater instead.

  4. More clothing on Knightley.  Look, whether we want to admit it or not, we expect to see women and skin when we're talking about pirate movies.  In the first "Pirates" movie, check.  In the sequel, no check.  Who was the costume designer on this film?

  5. An unbelievably bad ending, followed by a cliffhanger.  If you've seen this, and you need someone to rant to regarding the ending of this film, trust me, I'll be a shoulder for you to cry on!

Again, while I thought "Dead Man's Chest" was fucking dogshit--and, I can't stress how many times I wanted to get up and leave, but realizing that the third film is already essentially completed kept my butt in the seat--the special effects work is pretty good.  But these days, with a big-budget film, that's par for the course.  "Waterworld" was better than this horseshit.

(note to Brett:  fuck fuck shit fucking shitfucker.  Just wanted to make sure I got enough in.)

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09