Fifth ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ flick fights bloat

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - MOVIES - AP EN­TER­TAIN­MENT WRITER BY MARK KENNEDY

The open­ing scene of the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” is a fit­ting metaphor for where we stand in this l ong fran­chise: A creaky old galleon is un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously yanked up from the ocean depths and the only things aboard are cranky old ghosts.

A weary, bat­tered fifth chap­ter — “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” — lum­bers into the­aters Fri­day high on CGI tricks but with a hope­lessly mud­dled plot and re­cur­ring char­ac­ters ba­si­cally run­ning on fumes.

Johnny Depp is back as Jack Spar­row, as is Ge­of­frey Rush as a well-bearded Bar­bossa, look­ing a lot like the Cow­ardly Lion, and his faith­ful ca­puchin mon­key.

New­com­ers i nclude Gol­shifteh Fara­hani as a pretty cool, punky witch, and Kaya Scode­lario and Bren­ton Th­waites, who play young star- crossed lovers with se­ri­ous daddy is­sues, adding vi­tal­ity and maybe fu­ture fran­chise pos­si­bil­i­ties.

The bad guy this time is Javier Bar­dem as a ghost ship cap­tain. He proves to be an ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­tor be­cause he comes across as a very be­liev­able ghost ship cap­tain. His full-throt­tled, sin­gle- minded fury re­calls Ricardo Mon­tal­ban in “The Wrath of Khan.”

The film also fea­tures the re­turns of Or­lando Bloom and Keira Knight­ley — but in tiny cameos only — as the lovers Will Turner and El­iz­a­beth Swann. They missed the fourth in­stall­ment be­cause they were smart.

Direc­tors Espen Sand­berg and Joachim Ron­ning have been given the keys to the king­dom and they’ve thrown ev­ery­thing at it — a half-dozen big sea bat­tles, a shot­gun wed­ding, a joint ex­e­cu­tion, un­der­wa­ter sword fights and even a Bea­tle. Look care­fully and you’ll find Sir Paul McCart­ney do­ing a cameo in a jail.

Fans of this Pirates fran­chise have had to wait six long years for this of­fer­ing, ever since “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in 2011. That was the one about the foun­tain of youth. It took over from the third, bloated edi­tion, “At World’s End,” which seemed to be about a global chase for a mag­i­cal navi- gation chart and some hot pi­rate-on-pi­rate fight­ing.

This fifth edi­tion is all about a hunt for the Tri­dent of Po­sei­don, which can break curses. But it’s also about Bar­dem and his ghost crew bust­ing out of the Devil’s Tri­an­gle to hunt pirates, as well as Bar­bossa pro­tect­ing his pi­rate em­pire, and the two young lovers fulf illing their des­tinies.

Keep up: There’s a test at the end. Just kid­ding.

At the cen­ter of all this mad­ness is Depp, whose Spar­row is now down-on­his- luck and aban­doned by his crew. He’s al­ways drunk, ap­par­ently has stuffed cot­ton balls into his mouth and is deeply un­funny. ( He keeps mut­ter­ing about be­ing a bed wet­ter.) Depp didn’t just phone this in; he snail­mailed in his per­for­mance.

The story writ­ers — Jeff Nathanson and Terry Ros­sio — have not only over­stuffed the script, they’ve dumbed ev­ery­thing down (they think “horol­ogy” is a hys­ter­i­cally dirty word) and there’s hardly a quiet mo­ment in the en­tire twohour movie. Plus, not to get too his­tor­i­cal about a movie that deals with ghost pirates, but are they cer­tain sea­men in the 18th cen­tury greeted each other with “How’s it go­ing?”

You can’t beat the spe­cial ef­fects, though, es­pe­cially the way the ghosts are ren­dered, with parts miss­ing from their bod­ies. The ghost sharks and ghost birds — OK, stay with us — are pretty awe­some, too. And the ghost Depp is re­ally spooky. Wait, that’s just reg­u­lar Depp, fail­ing to make an im­pres­sion. Our bad.

Af­ter this fifth episode, you’ll wish Dis­ney would just de­clare the fran­chise dead and tell no more tales.

PHO­TOS BY DIS­NEY

Javier Bar­dem, left, por­trays ghost ship cap­tain Salazar, and Johnny Depp re­turns as Jack Spar­row in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

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