By Sherrie Li
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In truth, he may just not be cut out for this sort of thing. After a decade of work as a reliable but uninspired Hollywood journeyman, last year Verbinski made The Weather Man, a gutsy little parable about mediocrity and the dark side of the American success ethic that few people saw, but which in every way suggested a sharper, tougher, more honest American Beauty, with an excellent Nicolas Cage as a television weather forecaster who’s a disappointment to everyone in his life — most of all to himself. So, it’s no real surprise then that the best part of Dead Man’s Chest takes place upon The Flying Dutchman, a literal ghost ship where Jones presides over a crew of the eternally damned, including Turner’s own estranged pirate father, Bootstrap Bill (played with elegant, Bergmanesque suffering by Stellan Skarsgård). The scenes in which Bill attempts to make amends with his son from beyond his watery grave are genuinely affecting and just about the only moments in which Dead Man’s Chest deepens or expands our sense of the first film’s characters in the way that the best movie sequels can do. No less tragic a figure is Jones himself — a ghastly apparition with lobster-claw hands, a great bulbous neck and a head of writhing, molluskoid tentacles. Inhabited with titanic gusto by the great British character actor Bill Nighy (Love Actually), under virtual pounds of CG makeup, Jones turns the movie on with his grandness, his sadism and his tortured pining for his lost lady love. It’s a terrific performance, and one that leaves Depp’s looking ever more like a flashy parlor trick.
Alas, even Nighy is scant compensation in a movie that’s infernally boring for much of its running time, and then, just as the pulse starts to quicken: To be continued. At which point, Dead Man’s Chest has its audience as captive as Davy Jones’ crew, ready to come back next summer and plunk down another $10 to see how it all ends. The entire Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is turning out to be either one hell of a practical joke, or a far more ingenious kind of movie piracy than the sort Hollywood spends so much time fretting over. Either way, Jerry Bruckheimer is laughing all the way to the bank.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST| Directed by GORE VERBINSKI | Written by TED ELLIOTT and TERRY ROSSIO, based on characters created by ELLIOTT, ROSSIO, STUART BEATTIE and JAY WOLPERT, based on Walt Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” | Produced by JERRY BRUCKHEIMER | Released by Walt Disney Pictures | Citywide
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