Friday, May 25, 2018
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Please, let 'Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales' be the last

Zombie sharks are jumped by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, our fifth and hopefully final ride through Disney's theme park franchise. You can cut in line ahead of me, if you like.

Dead Men Tell No Tales appears to bring closure to a saga cobbled on the fly after 2003's opener genuinely surprised. Back when Capt. Jack Sparrow was a fresh costume for Halloween and Johnny Depp seemed like Brando's second coming. Were we ever so young?

Depp sleep-sashays through the performance this time, reciting beats that were extraordinary three movies ago. Jack's rum-slurred bon mots have become almost indecipherable, not that Jeff Nathanson's screenplay offers much clever to say. Once a bracing new movie hero, Jack is now just another cog in a contraption.

Dead Men Tell No Tales is the amusement ride movie we expected when Curse of the Black Pearl kicked off the series and were grateful when it wasn't. The movie operates with the hydraulic precision of chaos triggered every hour on the hour then reset for the next herd of park visitors. You'll notice how many of "Depp's" laughs result from a stunt man's risk.

Two maritime myths are invoked this time around, neither to thrilling effect. The fabled Flying Dutchman gets supernaturally raised by young Henry Turner, son of Will Turner, previously played by Orlando Bloom, who had better ways to spend more than one day on set. Nine years later, Henry seeks his lost father and a ghost said Jack knows how to find him.

Another search is on for Poseidon's trident, a stalagmite Super Soaker coveted by cursed Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem). Salazar can rule the seas with the trident but needs Jack's charmed compass to find it. Undead mateys in tow, Salazar forces Jack's rival Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to find the pirate.

From there, Nathanson's plot is tangled by Henry's infatuation with feisty astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), her abandonment issues and spoilable links to other characters. It's a cumbersome mix of new legend and coincidental back stories with faint emotional payoff.

Directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg previously showed creative sea legs with 2012's Oscar nominated Kon-Tiki, dramatizing Thor Heyerdahl's raft crossing of the Pacific Ocean. A reported 15-fold budget increase adds nothing to their talents but elaborate props and CGI wish fulfillment.

Granted, some effects do impress, like Jack's Buster Keaton-esque encounter with a guillotine and a zombie shark frenzy featuring the film's only memorable 3-D jolt. Better to skip the tinted eye wear and settle for Paul Cameron's murky underwater-at-night cinematography.

Calling Dead Men Tell No Tales the most entertaining Pirates of the Caribbean movie since the original is a backhanded compliment with all the bilge water under the bridge since then. Time to deep six Capt. Jack Sparrow. This franchise should tell no more tales.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.


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