Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (PG-13)

Action/Adventure 135 min. May 26, 2017
By Alan Scherstuhl
Yes, dead men tell no tales-- but neither, really, do the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Rather than stories, the series, of which this 2017 entry is the fifth, offers an unpalatable mix of mincing slapstick, rote derring-do, ponderous CGI, whiskery sea-chanty mysticism and dutiful action sequences whose only narrative purpose is to scramble, every half hour or so, which set of characters has been taken prisoner by the other set of characters. Listen to kids chat about the films, and you won't hear them say, I like the one where Captain Jack finds the fountain of youth. Instead, it's all, I like the part with the mermaids. The Pirates pictures themselves, daylong and bloated, are something like the treasure hunts at their centers -- persevere and you may find some payoff.

This time, co-directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg smashingly execute a bank heist that plays like a mule-driven, 18th-century Fast & Furious setpiece. Several of the swordfights exhibit inventive stunt work and witty choreography, especially one involving a hangman's noose and a whirligig guillotine. But Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow remains the series' heart and the void at its center, a character that at this point makes more sense in a Party City clearance aisle than on a multiplex screen. Depp finds no fresh angles on Jack in this outing, and he doesn't really seem to have looked — but at least the script never demands that Jack appear to give a shit about whatever's going on.
Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg Johnny Depp, Kaya Scodelario, Orlando Bloom, Brenton Thwaites, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Golshifteh Farahani, Kevin McNally Stuart Beattie Walt Disney Pictures

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