While way too long -- just like the movie it represents -- "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" doesn't quite tell the story and could stand an additional wordy subtitle.
Try "Johnny Depp Pays Off His Divorce Lawyer."
Lacking the creativity or burst of pizzazz that the carried the earlier movies in the franchise, the fifth movie in the tired franchise leaves eager audiences feeling marooned. Even Depp, who thrives in the role of Capt. Jack Sparrow like no other in his storied career, seems bored and lifeless in this outing. This is as close to a cynical cash-in as he's ever come.
After an exciting start -- with a pair of trademark chases and escapes that have defined the series -- the script runs out of ideas and floats on for more than two hours with little point or direction. The first half-hour seems like a proof of concept of what the series was meant to be -- a binge-worthy, half-hour sitcom rather than a strained, emotionless movie.
With nothing more to say or explore, the series would best be suited as a series of nonsensical wacky events that happen to Sparrow, leaving everything just the way it started after every half-hour segment. Maybe someday. Whatever the future of "Pirates of the Caribbean" may be, the latest film shows that it can't go on like this.
With Sparrow's usual gang of sidekicks having moved on to supporting roles, he gets a new pair of travel buddies this movie. Kaya Scodelario plays a sassy scientist and Brenton Thwaites is the grown, orphaned son of the cursed Bloom character. Both are on redemption quests that require the aid of the unreliable Sparrow, but their true purposes are to play hapless straight men for Sparrow's tired shtick.
There is a forced "Saved by the Bell: The New Class" feel to the forced feel to the thankless new characters.
The villain side fares a little better, with scenery-chewing Javier Bardem going fulll freakazoid in the role of undead buccaneer Salazar, who is going after Sparrow's head, just as usual nemesis Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Never mind that Salazar commands an army of zombies disturbingly close to the plight of the bad guys in the original movie, or that Sparrow has been killed before, and recovered from the malady without much of a problem. The movie plays like a greatest hits album, with fresh recordings that can't match the ones you remember and treasure.
What gives the movie the entertainment factor it has are the tone, visuals and music which synthesize the thrill that wells up when you're about to embark on the ride at Disneyland. Action sequences are well-directed and fun.
But this is a ride that goes on far too long, with far too few reasons to keep you engaged.
Maybe a third subtitle is needed: "Lost at Sea."
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.