'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales': Many Asleep in the Deep
By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires film critic Print | Email
I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to over-analyze "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." I do that whenever I can't fathom for the love of me why someone would want to see the second-rate movie in question. After all, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg's rambling, rambunctious and dysfunctionally repetitious absurdity should spell an easy day for the critic. The temptation is to write, "It's lousy and that's that. Trust me. I've been writing film criticism for years. This is strictly for those possessing the bad movie gene."
But of course I can't. Besides the fact that such short shrift would put my credibility in question, I'm expected to supply breathlessly awaiting editors with 835 words of wit, wisdom and inimitable drollery, and neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night should stay me ... or do
I have that confused? In any case, failure to make my appointed rounds, so to speak, could spell financial inconvenience, and I have been so looking forward to purchasing those fuzzy dice to hang from my rearview mirror.
Thus I trudge on, despite the fact that, for me, the highlight of the movie was any time that I was able to somewhat understand what Johnny Depp, famously recreating his devil-may-care pirate, Jack Sparrow, was saying. Otherwise, his offhanded, slurring commentary, now a mode unto itself, is frustrating, dumbfounding and downright curious. I imagine teenage devotees hanging out in front of the 7-Eleven having hours of fun imitating Depp's newfangled image of dashing and daring, and challenging each other to comprehend their emulating, unintelligible utterances.
My defense in the dark of the theater, neither friend nor foe to the franchise, is to try to relax and not let it get to me. But then add that indecipherability of speech to a simpleton plot made painfully convoluted in the futile attempt to seem complex, and this fifth installment of the series becomes cinema's answer to watching paint dry. On and on each unfolding part of the saga is delivered in a miasma of confounding confusion.
Yes, I promised to quash my inclination to speculate the attraction of such mentally messy poppycock. But who am I kidding? So I shamelessly invoke the perceptions of Freud, Darwin and Marx -- both Karl and Groucho. What gives here, boys? You see, it's similar to how I feel about many of our politicians. I'm not as bothered by their rampant disingenuousness as I am about the electorate that thought them suitable to defend and preserve our Constitution, assuming that was their aim.
Hardly as critical, but just as disquieting, is how our choice of popular culture reflects on us as a civilization. Doubtless, there has always been a vital, vaudevillian segment of our entertainment menu. Humankind cannot live by "A Long Day's Journey into Night" alone, and surely I'd cast just as askance an eye at a society enraptured by Eugene O'Neill, 24/7. But while Depp's drunken buccaneer brings nothing odd or especially offensive to the realm of comedy, it's the idea that the writers thought the script was funny that urges me to check my battery.
Still, cutie pie and heartthrob that this otherwise accomplished actor is, there is the hope against hope that, despite a miserably uncreative script, the mystique of Johnny Depp will somehow, before the closing credits roll, salvage comedic treasure. But alas, matey, 'twas not to be. His Jack Sparrow's feigned disinterest while the wayward screenplay flounders from one devastating cataclysm to the next, including ghostly incursions from a motley crew of zombie swashbucklers led by Javier Bardem's Captain Salazar, only grows tiresome.
Now, we all know, or think we know, that despite his sarcastic ambivalence and bumbling between crises, Jack's casualness in the face of unceasing threat to life and limb is a ruse ... a cover for his bravery, certainty and command. He wants to apprise you, ad nauseam, of his new-age sense of altruism. In the event you haven't received the message in a bottle, the paradox of conflicting personality traits is Depp's way of asserting that this is what the very latest in film heroes looks like.
Problem is, the timeworn character sketch can't compensate for a plot that is essentially a hackneyed scavenger hunt -- a lot of gibberish about a magical trident that can undue curses. And the injection of Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites as bantering young faces with daddy issues who might fall in love if the fates allow, only adds more debris to the wreckage. All of which suggests that unless you're a devout fan, seeing "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" is the moviegoing equivalent of walking the plank.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," rated PG-13, is a Walt Disney Studios release directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg and stars Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem and Geoffrey Rush. Running time: 129 minutes
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