This weekend, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales had the honor (if you want to call it that) of being in the top slot of one of the worst Memorial Day box office weekends in several years. The story of Jack Sparrow’s search for the legendary Trident of Poseidon while on the run from the ghost crew of Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), complete with ghost beasties, also didn’t do too well with the critics, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Who gives an undead monkey butt?
We all know there is no such thing as an objective movie review. Every reviewer has an agenda (be it politics or fandom-driven) before the movie even starts. They have a preference in genre, a preconceived expectation, or simply a desire to make themselves seem smarter than the average movie fan.
I’m going to come clean and give you my brief, fully subjective, totally biased reasons for having a great time at this latest poorly-rated Pirates installment.
First, the casting for the primary villain is consistently perfect in these films. Now Bardem joins Geoffrey Rush and past baddies Ian McShane and Bill Nighy. All of these actors improve the quality of any project they join, so put them all in the same series and I’m buying the collectible Blu-ray box set.
Second, Johnny Depp is so fun to watch in the role of Jack Sparrow, it is almost a life lesson in enjoying what you do. This latest movie started with Jack not faring too well, and it’s hard not to compare him to the rocky (albeit self-inflicted) road Depp himself has been taking. Yet when he dons the pirate dreads I haven’t seen an actor so happy to be in character since Bela Lugosi wore his Dracula cape. One could argue this wasn’t such a healthy thing for Lugosi, but Depp’s alter ego security blanket is so much more — yes, I’ll say it — cuddly.
If I want to watch a movie that makes me think hard about the heavy issues in life, it is usually one I’ll end up renting. If I’m heading to the theater on a family day or date night, I want fun and adventure with a bucket of popcorn and good old-fashioned escapism. Disney’s Pirate movies, including this bank-towing, ghost shark-dodging, sword-clashing, and Jack-swaggering latest always provide this.
I’ll cede that they could have left out the introduction of another young couple. Both new characters (Carina Smyth and Henry Turner) had interesting stories of their own, but the romantic tension seemed a bit forced.
This would be a good place to finally end the Pirates saga, with Jack and his Pearl crew heading beyond that horizon, but I have a sneaky suspicion they left a few loose ends open hoping fans will take the bait for another voyage.
Was Barbossa’s selfless action in the final battle his blood sacrifice to the witch? What is Jack’s new cryptically intended destination? What about that post-credit scene indicating a visit from an old fishy friend? Let’s leave those things a mystery for now. Adventures continue and “happily ever after” can get boring without conflict, but we don’t always need to know what happens.
If they make another I will once likely drink that rum-spiked Kool-Aid and set sail with Captain Jack Sparrow and whatever motley collection of misfits he recruits for one important reason: I just love this franchise, warts and all.
Pirates of the Caribbean has always been my favorite Disney attraction since I was a kid (my kitchen is Pirates-themed). My husband and I saw Curse of The Black Pearl as our first “date night” when my oldest daughter was one. This year we saw the fifth movie as a family on her 15th birthday. The movie started at 12:35 p.m., the time she was born, so when the lights came down, I leaned over and said. “Happy Birthday! Savvy?” And she smiled all through the film.
So, flawed as the latest Pirates was for some critics, it was still fun to watch my kids laugh and cheer. It may have been part of a dismal box office weekend, but I really only care about the four tickets we purchased, and we got our money’s worth.