Andy Bockelman: 'Pirates' fast-paced, led by shallow character


What do you get when you combine the resourcefulness of MacGyver, the physical prowess of Inspector Clousseau, and the libido of Austin Powers? The answer? Why, I'm talking about Captain Jack Sparrow, mate.

Johnny Depp returns as the hugely popular pirate in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," the sequel to 2003's "Curse of the Black Pearl." In this continuation of the story, Jack receives an ominous message from Bootstrap Bill, the former first mate of the Black Pearl, who is now an undead soul lorded over by the legendary Davey Jones. Meanwhile, Will Turner and his fiancee Elizabeth Swann (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley) are imprisoned and threatened with execution unless they help the East India Trading Co. put Jack and his crew out of commission. Let the swashbuckling commence!

Depp throws himself into his role as the biggest scalawag of the seven seas. His performance in this movie is right on par with that seen in the original, which garnered him his first Academy Award nomination.

Of course, Jack Sparrow is just one of his many impressive characters. Depp has continually surprised audiences with his unique approach to acting.

Portraying one-of-a-kind writers Hunter S. Thompson ("Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas") and James Barrie ("Finding Neverland"), the worst filmmaker of all time ("Ed Wood"), and most recently the zany Willy Wonka ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"), Depp is impossible to typecast. Even with his onscreen antics, his costars manage to hold their own. Bloom's strait-laced Will Turner keeps Jack's debauchery in check while Knightley is far more than the average damsel in distress.

The movie contains practically everything that one would expect in one of the very few films today to which the word "swashbuckler" can be applied. Jack Sparrow and company must contend with bloodthirsty cannibals as well as the ruthless Davey Jones and the crew of the Flying Dutchman. Not to mention a sea monster called the Kracken that would put Jaws to shame!

However, Jack's snide dismissal of the "beastie" partially reveals the film's only major flaw: Its main character is about as deep as a puddle.

Although Depp is hugely entertaining, Sparrow is almost no different from bad boy heroes such as Han Solo ("Star Wars") and Wolverine ("X-Men"), and that may leave some wanting for a less stereotypical character.

Fortunately, the movie moves at such a rollicking pace, it's hard to complain.

Who would have thought that a movie inspired by a theme park ride would have been so satisfying? It should be very interesting to see where Disney gets its next big idea. Maybe in a year or two, we'll be seeing Space Mountain on the silver screen! For now, though, we can enjoy "Pirates of the Caribbean." And for those of you who just can't get enough of the action, a third "Pirates" film (currently subtitled "At World's End") will be sailing into theaters next summer.

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