It has become critical cliché to say that a gleefully executed summer blockbuster made one feel like a kid again, but this was my precise response to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. With its sun-bleached locales, barnacled bad guys, and unearthly soothsayers, director Gore Verbinski's latest pirate yarn is a stunning affront to marital woes, career anxieties, tax returns, and all other forms of mature and adult tosh. Silly and infectiously joyous from overwrought beginning to overwrought final frame, Pirates is not only fathoms in front of its predecessor, but sails far ahead of every other big-budget pop confectionary to have flavored theatres so far this year.
First, a moment of pause to contextualize this gushing praise. I was no great fan of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. It was no doubt a solid film: great Johnny Depp performance, breezy and colorful, but far too frequently tedious to warrant the lauding it received. I was not particularly looking forward to a sequel, seeing dollar signs in Verbinski's eyes rather than the reflection of some artistic muse. What surprises most then about this latest Pirates is its absolute regard for its art and its audience. The film gives fans what they want: more pop, less plod and most importantly, more Captain Jack.
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