Ahoy! The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise sets sail for the fifth time, and it’s a voyage you should make only if you are a very, very big fan who can cheerfully overlook a boat-full of problems.
This outing, directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, is subtitled Dead Men Tell No Tales, and if only that were true! First we’ve got Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem), who is dead and a mean ghost, griping about how he’s cursed. (There is another cursed dead man with something to say, but it’s kind of a spoiler.) Then we re-up with saucy pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who is dead drunk. And here comes not quite-dead-yet Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).
In a jumble of a plot, two young people — Henry (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina (Kaya Scodelario) — set out in search of Poseidon’s magical trident, which can dispel all curses cast at sea. This pursuit also loops in the three aforementioned sea captains (plus another captain representing the British navy), and it’s a cavalcade of CGI-heavy attacks — on land, on sea, on deck and underwater — all accompanied by a blaring symphonic score.
Fourteen years ago, we were amazed that Disney had made a relatively entertaining movie out of a boring amusement-park ride, and Depp’s preening, quippy Sparrow was a fresh take on the narrow presentation of pirates. But now Depp’s shtick has gone very stale; his antecedent is no longer rock star Keith Richards, but some clapped-out bit comic repeating tired one-liners at a faded Catskills resort. (Depp’s committed to this franchise as a star vehicle, whereas Bardem and Rush could do any number of more worthy projects; I like to think they’re just socking away cash for retirement.)
It’s no spoiler to say that the magical trident does indeed stop the tiresome nonsense plaguing the Caribbean. We can only hope its power extends to the executive offices at Disney, and that this past-its-sell-by-date franchise can also find a peaceful death.