Two and a half stars (PG-13)
Just for the record, I want you to know I understand that nothing I say here will play a factor in your decision whether or not to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. If you caught the first two films in the massively popular Disney series, you probably will help set some new box office record this weekend as the movie opens all over the planet. If you haven’t seen the first two (and especially if you watched the first one, but skipped the second), it’s hard to imagine that you’ll choose to hop in now.
My guess is that most of you are reading this because A) you enjoy my award-winning “non-pretentious, conversational style” or B) you just like to compare notes with a fellow movie buff.
I’ll share my impressions in a paragraph or so, but first a brief non-spoiler glance at the set-up: Most of the characters from the last installment are scattered all over the place. Some are captives, others are facing death and a few are already dead. After several minutes of bluster and posturing, chronically bland Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and feisty Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) team up with ex-skeleton pirate Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to try and free the ever-slurry Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Davy Jones’ Locker.
Meanwhile, tentacle-faced dead guy Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and his fish-faced crew are in a reluctant alliance with the white-wigged British pricks from the East India Trading Company. The ominous fortuneteller with the horrible teeth (Naomie Harr) returns and Chow Yun-Fat joins the madness as pirate lord Sao Feng.
There’s lots more plot — a barrel full of story lines — but it doesn’t matter because of the way the movie is structured. I was reminded of kids playing with toy soldiers in the backyard. They move them over here for a fight, then move them over there for another fight and so on until Mom calls everybody in for lunch. That’s what At World’s End was for me. Yes, the special effects, the makeup and the sets are incredible. But the movie keeps repeating the same pattern: A few cast members talk while their ship sails towards some big meeting/confrontation, the meeting/confrontation becomes an action set-piece. Repeat for around two hours and 45 minutes (minus the closing credits) until Mom calls you in for lunch.
At World’s End is big and busy and loud and full of swashbuckling, but it’s not nearly as fun as it should be. Johnny Depp, still blending Keith Richards and Pepe Le Pew for his Jack Sparrow character, has some good moments, but his prancing isn’t as entertaining as it used to be. Speaking of Keith Richards, the much-ballyhooed cameo appearance by the poster boy for rock excess is anticlimactic — Richards is fine, but the screenplay doesn’t give him any juicy lines. Bill Nighy continues to impress as Davy Jones, but the standout character this time around is Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa, offering a wicked, robust, richly entertaining performance.
Ah, if only the whole film had as much spirit as Rush. For all its fire and thunder, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is a sluggish affair.