What's a critic to do? "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," the sequel to the fabulously successful "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," has broken box-office records on its opening three-day weekend ($132 million).
So, to say that it's overlong (151 minutes) and meandering in its narrative search for top-notch special effects is somewhat irrelevant in the face of the built-in summer audience. Once again, Johnny Depp as the swishy, pickled Captain Jack Sparrow propels the action, although he has lost a bit of his Rolling Stone Keith Richards incoherence.
The plot is simplemindedly simple, yet wastes too much time in explanation. It involves Captain Jack's blood debt to Davy Jones (scene-stealing Bill Nighy), the keeper of drowned seamens' souls who has an amazing ever-moving octopus puss. Sparrow must find the key to Davy's dead man's chest, where lies the undersea crypt-keeper's still beating heart. Of course, the chest also has to be located. Along for the ride are Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and his fiance, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), both under threat of execution for saving Sparrow in the first film.
Like the first "Pirates," the film is filled with loads of scary stuff, which may keep the littlest kids screaming for Mommy in the night. Rotting-corpse-drowned-seamen ghosts have returned, now under the leadership of frightening Davy. But we are also treated to plucked out eyeballs and a gruesome flogging. That's only the tip of the Grand Guignol iceberg. Parents be warned.
Under the firm control of first "Pirates" producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, the sequel serves three basic purposes: To establish elaborate action/effects sequences to be used in the Disney theme parks, set up the third part of the trilogy and bring in a whole lot of doubloons. The action/effects range from a giant squid (a vast upgrade from the phony one in Disney's 1954 "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea") to a Buster Keatonesque runaway water wheel with Captain Jack and others inside to rampaging cannibals out to eat our hero. The third installment, which was filmed simultaneously with Part Two, appears perfectly prepared for the launch pad, as evidenced at the end of "Dead Man's Chest."Now, Disney only has to wait for more money to roll in.
As for the critics? They can take a flying leap into Davy Jones' Locker.