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Pirates 2 - Dead Man's Chest Contains a Few Jewels

  • Christian Hamaker
  • 2006 7 Jul
  • COMMENTS
<i>Pirates 2 - Dead Man's Chest</i> Contains a Few Jewels

DVD Release Date:  December 5, 2006 
Theatrical Release Date:  July 7, 2006
Rating:  PG-13 (for intense sequences of adventure violence, including frightening images.)
Genre:  Action Comedy
Run Time:  150 min.
Director:  Gore Verbinski
Actors:  Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgard

Open up Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Man's Chest, and what do you find? A few pearls of laughter and some gem performances amid the rot.

"Chest," the second film in a planned trilogy, goes on much too long, then makes no effort to provide a satisfying ending. Like Back to the Future Part II, "Dead Man's Chest" plays like a set-up for the third installment in the series. And like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - the second film in the Indiana Jones trilogy - "Chest" includes heavy doses of the macabre that will leave some viewers more disgusted than amused.

Why, then, does the film leave a smile, rather than a frown, on one's face? Because it has a cartoonish quality that leavens even its darkest moments, and it includes a couple of bang-up sequences that remind us of how summer-movie thrills can delight with their lunacy and inspiration.

Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, wanted by an official who has blackmailed Sparrow's friend Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) into finding him and turning him over to the official's custody. If Will follows through, he will be allowed to marry his beloved Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley).

Jack has struck a bargain of his own with the ghostly Davy Jones (Bill Nighy)- captain of the Flying Dutchman and its crew of undead sailors - but has yet to make good. Now Davy is ready to even the score with Jack.

The plot is convoluted. It starts with an aborted wedding between Will and Elizabeth before shifting to Jack Sparrow and his escapades. Sparrow can prevent eternal servitude to Jones only by finding the key that will open a chest containing Jones' still-beating heart. He'll have to hold off his friend, Will, while avoiding the Leviathan - a sea creature with a taste for Sparrow. A sought-after compass also factors into the story.

Sparrow's efforts will take him to an island where he'll be mistaken for a god in human form. Although played mainly for laughs, this sequence, in true Pirates fashion, adds a dose of morbid humor involving cannibalism and native rituals. Still, the island sequence is the film's highlight, leading to an amazing escape attempt that, given the limited natural resources available to the characters, qualifies as downright inventive.

Depp's performance here is deliciously funny, on par with the first film in the series. Nighy, as Davy Jones, does what he can as a man with, essentially, the head of an octopus (thanks to some impressive, disturbing special effects). The others are window dressing, although one enjoyable duo debates divine Providence and the Bible. Alas, coming from these unsavory individuals, such talk is rarely elevating.

More troubling is the gross-out factor, which is quite high for a PG-13 film. Dead Man's Chest has a playful spirit, but it can be overbearing at times. The film is immersed in seafaring legend, minimizing the impact of some of its more disturbing moments, but as with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Chest will likely stir controversy among parents who take younger children for what they suspect will be a campy, fun film, only to find those elements mixed with darker scenes and themes. 

Dead Man's Chest is a Disney film. Even the studio's classic G-rated animated films, such as Bambi and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, have a long tradition of traumatizing children with frightening scenes, so Chest's PG-13 rating should serve as a strong caution to parents.

There is potentially offensive material in Chest, but the film refuses to take anything seriously. That, in itself, may be offensive to viewers who find such an attitude problematic.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  Minimal, but not entirely absent.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum" and all that. In other words, the pirates imbibe. Elizabeth drinks.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Some kissing.
  • Violence:  Gunfire, sometimes playful, sometimes not; eyeballs are pried out; a sea monster attacks pirate ships; a knifing; several men plummet to their deaths; vomiting; cannon fire; cannibals and cannibalistic rituals; a father is forced to whip his son.
  • Dark Humor:  Eunuch joke; Jack uses a human skeleton to steer a boat; corpses speak, eat bugs, do the things that corpses might do if they were reanimated; a man nibbles a detached toe; islanders believe a pirate is a god in human form; a beating heart is preserved.
  • Religion:  A voodoo priestess advises the shipmates; a ship is described as haunted, with "spirits" who need appeasing.