U.S. Release Date: July 7, 2006
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Stuart Beattie, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgard, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris, Geoffrey Rush (Cameo)
Running Time: 2 hours and 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images)

Second Outing Fades to Dark Grey
by Scott Holleran

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest intensifies the original's horror effects and adds a shade of grey to each character. Deviating from the two young lovers (Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom), director Gore Verbinski keeps pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in the spotlight.

While writers Ted Elliott's and Terry Rossio's light tone is present, the sequel is darker and more sinister, particularly Jack, but also another principal character, who sets a cliffhanger in motion that's designed to lead into the next installment.

The motion picture opens as handsome Will Turner (Bloom) and his would-be bride Elizabeth (Knightley) are arrested at their wedding for aiding Jack the rum rat in the previous picture. As frenetic as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was, its story, built around the ship the Black Pearl, was intelligible. The follow-up is less cohesive.

To save Elizabeth and free himself, Will is ordered to find and catch Jack, who owes a debt to the wet, wicked and cursed sea creature, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). Pushing off to find his cunning ex-cohort, Jack—more flamboyant, if possible—Will locates him on an island with barbaric savages.

They're a picky tribe, deifying and roasting Jack, whose crew is on the verge of mutiny, and Dead Man's Chest drags in the first phase. Verbinski retains a sharp sense of humor, running a gun gag that knocks off a few rounds of laughs, and the island antics cue the chief conflict with hideous Davy Jones and his half-supernatural slaves.

The pranks eat into time with the main characters. Elizabeth goes for a stretch disguised as a boy, removed from the action, and Will—reuniting with his long-lost father (Stellan Skarsgard, stealing every scene), Bootstrap Bill—is demoted to second string. This outing belongs to Jack Sparrow.

Depp's dubious character dominates Dead Man's Chest, personifying the movie's theme that every man is corruptible. The script previews snapshots of morally questionable types: Elizabeth's father (Jonathan Pryce), a voodoo lady (Naomie Harris), the former commodore (Jack Davenport) and Davy and company. Nearly everyone appears willing to make a deal with the devil.

Sea fights are fantastical, inflated to horror status, and intense scenes on Davy's ship work because there is a value at stake—the father-son relationship—but the malevolence takes a toll. By overwhelming the human story with an indestructible sea monster and his creatures, Dead Man's Chest accentuates the evil, and it slips beneath the surface.

Slithering, computer-generated Davy Jones—who looks realistic—delivers death sermons and a giant octopus with omniscient tentacles strikes ships on command. Jack seduces another man's lover. Heavily themed with gloom, peril and depravity, this is not a movie for kids.

The emphasis on Johnny Depp's nihilistic Jack Sparrow, an amusing diversion the first time, casts the tale under a dark spell, looting this Pirates of the Caribbean of its light comedy and leaving it decidedly more grim than fun.

Buy on DVD
DVD Notes
Loaded with bonus bits that last more than twice as long as the sequel, the two-disc version of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is an ambitious effort. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is interviewed in several extras, ahead of director Gore Verbinski, and most of the movie's several executive producers also appear.

Sedate script writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are prominently featured, chiming in and providing audio commentary, noting Verbinski's Impressionistic approach, calling attention to a different opening scene than they had scripted and drawing story comparisons to the Disneyland attraction that inspired these mammoth movies. Don't get them started on rules of the picture's dice game, which they apparently tried to illuminate in another draft.

The meat of this DVD is two back-to-back production logs, Charting the Return and According to Plan, which cumulatively amount to a 90-minute documentary on disc two. There's no real joy here—the crew seems more excited about engineering the challenging Caribbean shoot than it is about the movie—and Bruckheimer might as well be describing a box of cereal as the highest grossing movie of all time.

From the beginning, it's clear that the writers were charged with building a story using certain gimmicks—the bone ball, the wheel, the dice game—and Disney's cart-before-the-horse approach shows in repeat viewings of this lackluster movie. The double-latched box comes in a slipcase with a printed flow chart indicating what's on each disc—and that includes fleeting breakdowns of Captain Jack from head to tow—about all there is of Johnny Depp—bloopers and bits on Davy Jones, the Kraken, swordfighting, the bone ball, the Disneyland premiere, more of Bruckheimer and a piece on adding Jack Sparrow to the Disneyland attraction.

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