‘Pirates’ sequel gets an A for “Arrgh”

While not as good as the first, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest does serve its purpose in many ways.

Makes money? Check. Sets up the third and final movie? Check.

Provide plenty of action for a summertime flick? Double check.

The only problem is that too many people will want too much.

They’ll want more CGI surprises, more swashbuckling, more intrigue and of course, they’ll want more Jack Sparrow.

And for the most part, they’ll get all of that.

Dead Man’s Chest jumps right into the story: On Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann’s (Keira Knightley) wedding day, they are both arrested for aiding and abetting Jack’s escape in the first movie. But it’s all for leverage, as the new Commodore Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) uses a full pardon to bribe Will into finding Jack and getting from him the infamous compass that does not work. Apparently, unbeknownst to the audience of three years ago, the compass does serve a purpose besides being a funny prop: It points to a certain island where a certain something is buried.

So Will sets off, with his fiancée sitting in jail guarded by a dog with a key in his mouth. Will must, by any means necessary, find the Black Pearl.

At the same time, the Black Pearl is out trying to find a key – a key to which Jack believes – actually, he knows – opens the Dead Man’s Chest, which contains the heart of legendary pirate Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). Why it contains the heart is a little uncertain, but Jack gets a creepy visitor in the rum cellar of the Pearl: Bootstrap Bill Turner (Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd), Will’s dead and cursed dad, who says Jack owes a debt to Davy Jones.

As it turns out, Jack does owe a debt to Davy Jones and his CGI squid-tentacle beard. Davy Jones promised to let Jack be captain of the Pearl for 13 years, and Jack, likewise, gave up his soul.

To give your soul to Davy Jones means living a life of slavery on the Flying Dutchman, turning you into a half-man, half-sea creature. The best creature in the movie has to be Davy Jones’ first mate, a surly hammerhead shark.

Davy Jones is a formidable villain this time around, especially since he controls a giant squid known as the kraken (and yes, that’s the same name as the ride at Sea World.)

While all that is going on, Elizabeth escapes from jail with the help of her father (Jonathan Pryce), and is not so cautiously trying to catch up with her husband-to-be and perpetually drunk pirate.

The plot is a little confusing at times, but it keeps you thinking as characters old and new appear and reappear to make you laugh and stare intently. Gore Verbinski (The Ring, The Mexican), does well from the director’s chair, using sweeping shots that take full advantage of the beautiful islands and endless ocean horizons. No CGI in the world could match having a full pirate ship on the dark blue water.

So what’s new and fresh?

Well, there’s some more of Jack, which most fans wanted. However, Keith Richards, the supposed inspiration of the character for Depp, is not present in the movie as was rumored, but most things Depp does will crack you up. Sparrow stumbles, mumbles, then delivers a speech that will make you laugh even though it makes no sense.

Watching Depp, one realizes most of his quirks weren’t in the script. Once again he delivers, but all the actors get a chance to shine, round themselves out and leave you wanting to know more about them as well.

Davy Jones is one example. For a reason that surely will be cleared up in the third installment, Jones favors sailors who are in love with a beautiful woman. Why? It’s probably the reason his heart is in the chest to begin with.

And with the ending of the sequel – which won’t be shocking, but intriguing to most fans – the series is ready to move on. Is this series perfect, though?

Not really.

Many things are still lacking, such as the romance missing between Elizabeth and Will. OK, we get it: They’re supposed to be in love and knew each other for many years as children. But in the movie, it just comes off as two really good-looking people who really like each other. No one feels it when they kiss except those with unhealthy crushes on both actors.

It is a good movie and worth the $8 ticket. Think of it as a soft pitch, setting up a home run for the star player everyone wants to see. Now the third movie just has to knock the series out of the park.

Grade: A-

Running time: 145 mins.

Rated: PG-13