For years, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has provided thrills in theaters. Johnny Depp created a memorable, fun character in Jack Sparrow that has delighted audiences four times since first appearing on screen in 2003.
Depp reprises the role for Disney’s fifth, and latest, installment, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” but sadly, the star seems less than fully engaged in this installment.
The film’s final credits attribute literally hundreds of artists and animators — and it is these talented people and the special effects crew who are the real stars of “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Overt efforts to amuse play out like a kiddy ride at Disney World and the jokes and gags, especially in the first act, are just plain dumb. Regardless, directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning, make use of a script by Jeff Nathanson, and manage a bit of intrigue and a touch of entertainment as the film progresses.
The film opens as a young boy, Henry (Brenton Thwaites), sinks to the depths of the sea to find his father Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) — a man cursed to live (as an undead) out his days on the ocean bottom. Henry is warned away by Will, but nine years later, he is as determined as ever to break the curse that binds his father.
Following a few close calls with the Red Coats and an encounter with a bumbling, drunk Jack Sparrow, Henry finds himself teamed up with a beautiful scientist (Kaya Scodelario) in search of Poseidon’s Trident. Along the way they must outwit and outrun the undead and ruthless Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) who wants Sparrow dead and his curse broken too.
The cast is excellent, but as noted, Depp is given over to slapstick silliness more than ever before. It’s a pirate’s life, but it is the animators and effect team that truly bring these characters and this story to visually stunning life. Geoffery Rush reprises his role, too, as Barbosa and thankfully, his creepy character takes the film on side plot with a little more substance.
Scodelario, who inexplicably has a magically appearing wardrobe of dresses, adds spirit and makes up for the lack of Elizabeth Swann (Kira Knightly) in this installment. She and Thwaites make for some fiery interactions.
Ultimately, it is the story and the comedy that is lacking in the PG-13 rated “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Because of this, the more than two hour run time feels almost interminable at times. Its visual imagery, however, fascinates — making one wonder if actors will actually be needed in the future. Certainly, computer generated characters have to be less expensive than overpaid stars. Perhaps not, though, given the nearly 10 minutes of final film credits.
Audiences will flock to the theatre to see the fifth film in Disney’s super successful franchise, but it's best to do it during matinee hours. I am placing a C- in my grade book — it could have and should have been better.