Johnny Depp runs like a girl, his arms outstretched and fluttering. It’s one of the amusingly fey traits he piles on for his second go-round as Captain Jack Sparrow, the most heavily kohl-eyed pirate ever to sail across the screen. It’s funny the first time. You chuckle the second. But by the third scamper, the bit is growing stale.
The overuse of this literal running joke is symptomatic of the problems plaguing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, an overblown sequel to the 2003 blockbuster. Halfway through—and it’s 2½ hours long—what should have been a romp begins to feel like an uninspired, special effects-saturated slog. It doesn’t help that the hard-to-follow plot loads on the complications. Ten-year-old viewers will be able to explain its every twist, but no one older will be interested enough to bother paying the avid attention required.
Chest again pits sweethearts Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) and Will Turner (Bloom), along with pal Captain Jack, against assorted perils. These include a giant sea monster and a legendary dead sailor, Davy Jones (Nighy), here a scary, peg-legged man with an octopus’s face. His heart, still beating, is locked in a chest. Eventually, everyone is pursuing this macabre treasure. “Whoever controls the chest controls the sea,” someone helpfully explains.
Knightley and Bloom have little to do but periodically look aggrieved and serve as foils for Depp’s shenanigans. Returning director Gore Verbinski knows his way around an action scene but allows them to blur together. Here’s hoping the third Pirates, already shot and due next year, keeps it shorter and more to the sword point. (PG-13)