The Big Movie: 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' (PG-13)
by: Peter Mountain, Even Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow doesn't satisfy in the disappointing

Here's another one of those sequels best described as more of the same, only less. Heaped to the point of creaking with even more of what made the original such unexpected fun, 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' delivers just a rum portion of enjoyment. It's a treasure chest spilling over with cubic zirconias.

Most of the original on- and off-screen principals are back for these further adventures, minus two of the previous four writers - apparently the better two.

The plot is a nonsensical jumble of debts owed and objects sought, existing only as a flimsy skeleton upon which to hang a series of set pieces as repetitive as they are elaborate. But between these, time hangs even heavier.

It all plays out like a gigantic illustration of that old joke about the restaurant where the food is terrible and the portions are too small. Sadly enough, this also applies to Johnny Depp, whose flouncing, mascara-splashed Captain Jack Sparrow was a goofy surprise the first time around, but already seems pickled in familiarity.

And yet he is missed during his lengthy stretches away, perhaps because this often means we're stuck with the landlubberish romantic duo of Orlando Bloom, whose charisma timbers are severely shivered, and Keira Knightley, who continues to resemble an attitude-clad model in search of a catwalk. Let 'er walk the plank instead.

The only performance gold is seized by two wily veterans who even outsmart their makeup jobs. As Davy Jones, of the legendary locker, Bill Nighy offers villainy that is remarkably subtle considering his head is a jellied squidlike mass with tentacles for a beard.

And as Bloom's estranged father, now a barnacled and oozing member of Jones' eternally doomed crew, the invaluable Stellan Skarsgard actually conjures up a character worthy of sympathy. These two, along with Jones' spectacularly threatening vessel and beyond-motley crew, provide most of the movie's few highlights.

It's too bad so little good is made of the grand physical production, which contains some of the better CGI work of recent vintage.

But the visual magic only provides a dandy hat from which returning director Gore Verbinski takes forever to pull a cheap cliffhanger ending that ought to leave viewers squawking like a wet parrot. Up until then, it's mostly just yo-ho-hum.

- Pat Holmes

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