The original PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL offered up the unexpected delight of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, a joyfully addled pirate redux. He shared top billing with his co-stars, Orlando Bloom as the stalwart Will Turner and Keira Knightly as the plucky Elizabeth Swann, but it was Depp who swept the film into the first ranks of adventure comedies, and in the process swept himself to an Oscar™ nomination. As a result, the sequel, PIRATES OF THE
Depp himself is in fine form, this time on the run from Davy Jones (as in the undersea locker) and a pesky promise that he made thirteen years before that has come due. That’s too bad for Will and Elizabeth, who have been plucked from their wedding by their old nemesis Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), and promised the gallows for their part in helping Jack escape if Will doesn’t retrieve a very special compass from the pirate on the lam. Naturally, Will does track him down. As does
There is a surfeit of big, billowing special effects as the trio criss-cross the
And one longs for more Johnny Depp, the best special effect that any film or audience could ever desire. He follows his own muse, with deadpan timing and a grasp of physical comedy, large and small, that is a wonder to behold. A quick look of bemusement in his black-rimmed eyes, the flashing smile of a brainstorm erupting behind them tells the story of a man who doesn’t let reality get in the way of what he wants, even though his grasp of that reality is tentative at best. In fact, it is not overstating things to say that pretty much anytime the camera is not on Depp, it’s just killing time. This is not the fault of the other actors. Their characters are in as completely different a film as Depp’s Jack Sparrow is in another universe. Knightly is spunky, which is about all that is required of her character. Bloom is fine as the romantic lead, looking storybook pretty and longing appropriately for his lady love. As an action hero, he’s also got the chops, whether swashbuckling with humans, things from Davy Jones’ crew that used to be human, or escaping hungry cannibals while trapped in something resembling a large whiffle ball. It’s just that the script, when Depp is not riffing, is a standard issue seafaring adventure from the 1940s. Its attempts to get mushyare all but unwatchable for all the treacle. And, oddly enough, those would not be the scenes between Will and Elizabeth, but rather in those between Will and his twice-cursed pirate father (Stellan Skarsgard), one of the formerly human members of Davy Jones’ crew on his ship, The Flying Dutchman .
The exception to all this is Bill Nighy, swathed in CGI special effects that have transformed him into a smorgasbord of marine invertebrates with, most notably, an octopus for a face. Yet, he is somehow still recognizably Nighy, and he’s darned funny in the way he brings such commitment, not to mention panache, to the role of someone whose face is mostly prehensile tentacles and a pulsating blow-hole.
One could kvetch about the need for a tighter script, a smaller concept, and a voodoo priestess who spoke intelligibly, but why bother? Pirates of the