Movie review: 'Pirates of the Caribbean'

Brad Keefe

Let's all remember those days when “Pirates of the Caribbean” was a surprisingly fun, good-not-great franchise born out of a Disney World attraction.

It rose above the shamelessness of adapting a theme-park ride into a movie and became a lesser “Star Wars” on the high seas. Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow became a charming scoundrel for the ages, and it was fun.

Of course, success breeds franchises, and this one lost its charm a couple of movies ago. The action is still fun, but can anyone tell me they still remember anything about these characters?

So here we are, six years after all the unanswered, uncared-about questions from “On Stranger Tides,” and as long as these movies keep making box office bank, this is what we get. Thanks, capitalism!

The latest entry is titled “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and it's the kind of movie where a character literally says the title as a line of dialogue just before the title card comes up. To quote Tool's Maynard Keenan, what became of subtlety?

So, um, plot? Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) is on the hunt for the Trident of Poseidon because it's obviously the only way he can save himself from the ghost pirates led by the evil Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem, accepting a paycheck).

There's new blood in this universe with Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the son of Orlando Bloom's now-cursed Will Turner. There's also a reboot version of the spunky, headstrong female lead in Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), whose deep knowledge of astronomy holds the key to the location of the Trident.

Disclaimer: I can and do and love to turn my head off for some good dumb action. “Dead Men” is perhaps more of a theme-park ride than the theme-park ride that inspired the series, linking together enough fantastically expensive action sequences to make audiences positively seasick.

And, hey, I'll forgive the ridiculousness of a bank robbery that involves (spoiler?) a half-dozen horses pulling an entire bank building through city streets while being chased by British authorities if it's cool enough. Another spoiler: It's not cool enough.

The real problem is not the action. It's the multilayered backstories and love stories of characters that appear CGI even when they aren't. Even Depp's Sparrow has somehow lost his charm, and that's a bummer.

I often say of these popcorn movies that even when they're fun, they're forgettable. “Dead Men” was a movie I was forgetting while I was watching it. We can do better. Let's do better.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”

Opens Thursday

1 star out of 5