By Daniel Barnes
*Opens everywhere Friday, May 26.
“Mirthless and Obligatory”
First, don’t get snookered by that misleading title. Dead men monologue almost nonstop throughout this fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Everywhere you turn, some ghost or ex-ghost starts blathering about their tortured and confusing backstory. The film provides answers to questions that no one could possibly care about. One of the major reveals in Dead Men Tell No Tales is the origin story of Captain Jack Sparrow’s disgusting dread jewelry. Seriously.
Of course, Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack. He’s still a shambling alcoholic with a surprising zest for derring-do, still barely hanging on to his ragtag band of snarling idiot pirates. Let this sink in for a second: Depp got nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in the first Pirates film. As recently as early 2004, this effete drunk shtick felt not only fresh, it felt like good acting. That’s shocking, especially given Depp’s utterly mirthless and obligatory turn in Dead Men Tell No Tales.
However, islands aren’t going to pay for themselves, and so here’s Depp-as-Jack falling face first in the mud, getting pooped on and taking repeated punishment to the groin. Since Depp is the star of a billion-dollar franchise and theme park attraction, and because he’s made the right people a ton of money, we’re all supposed to politely forget about his abusive behavior towards ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp probably made a mint to sleepwalk through this dud, but he clearly hates every second of it, so cool. No amount of CGI can disguise his dead eyes.
Not that Dead Men Tell No Tales lacks for annoying CGI. Far from it! CGI-smeared Javier Bardem enters the Pirates-verse as Captain Salazar, a cursed ghost captain whose swirling hair and charred skin makes him look simultaneously submerged and smoldering. Salazar needs Jack Sparrow’s magical compass (don’t ask, it’s super lame), and he’s joined on the Sparrow hunt by Henry Turner. Young Henry seeks to lift the curse keeping his father Will (Orlando Bloom) chained to The Flying Dutchman.
Brenton Thwaites plays Henry, and if you thought Bloom defined skin blemish-free callowness for a generation of automatons, wait until you get a load of this kid. He makes Bloom look like Dog Day Afternoon-era Pacino by comparison.
In its ability to spin mindless fun into heavy-handed bombast, only the Transformers films surpass the Pirates franchise. We’re probably done with this franchise for a while, at least until Depp’s next major legal settlement. That saves us from such abominations as Pirates of the Caribbean: Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum, Pirates of the Caribbean: Shiver Me Timbers and Pirates of the Caribbean – Arrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!: International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Presented by Dave Barry. New pirate law: tell no tales unless you have a tale to tell.