Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Directed by: Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg
Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, Orlando Bloom
Rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content.
2 hrs. 9min.

It began just over 50 years ago, two long dips below street level, where old sots sang, waved flagons of rum and chased buxom wenches with comic ardor. Welcome to Disneyland, and a ride through Pirates of the Caribbean.

Eventually, the animatronic pirates had their behavior moderated somewhat — the buccaneers no longer quaff rum and seek to “Crack Jenny’s tea cup,” which is pirate-talk for consorting with wanton trollops. It took until 2003 for the concept of the attraction to hit the big screen. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a box-office hit, and garnered Johnny Depp his first Oscar nomination as that witty, scurvy dog himself, Captain Jack Sparrow.

Fourteen years and four films later, the franchise has hauled in (according to Wikipedia) $3.73 billion dollars, worldwide. After a six-year hiatus, the latest installment, Dead Men Tell No Tales, stands ready to clean up for a second straight weekend of supernatural hijinks, genuinely hilarious moments and swashbuckling action.

After five movies, Depp and his character seem inextricable. You can almost sense a whiff of bilge water emanating from both the actor and the rascally pirate. The series itself has been a set of funny, myth-laden adventures on the high seas, adored by kids, enjoyed by parents. In Dead Men Tell No Tales, a question remains: Will Cap’n Jack live to plunder once more, or be scuttled, left to settle into the briny deep, once the credits roll?

I hope not. Jeff Nathanson’s script, from his story, conceived with Terry Rossio, harkens back to the first film. The charm of these buccaneer blockbusters has been Depp’s deft humor and the fantasy. Little can be as fanciful as a crew of ghost officers from the Spanish Navy, escaping the Devil’s Triangle, with the malevolent goal of killing off all pillagers. Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem of No Country for Old Men) is the head ghost, particularly hell-bent on wiping out Cap’n Jack. To keep his sea legs under him, Jack seeks the vaunted Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact whose owner can control the sea and repel these specters. And hideous ghosts they are: Salazar and company are all decaying bones and sinew, like floating jerky dripping foul liquid. Their ship’s a nasty old pile of dry rot. The computer-generated images are splendid, sumptuous; the film in its entirety, a visual feast.

Depp’s Sparrow is not the entire focus. There’s Henry Turner (Australian actor Brenton Thwaites), son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who seeks the trident to lift his father’s curse from a previous adventure. (Will is afflicted with barnacles; he resembles the bottom of a well-traveled fishing trawler.) Henry’s heart gets lighter when he meets an alleged witch, Carina, played with wit and style by Kaya Scodelario. Of course Carina’s not a witch, just an astronomer. In the midst of winding up in one captive situation after another, Carina tells Cap’n Jack’s crew she’s also a horologist, and they, quite predictably, misinterpret the word.

Look for a cameo by a major rock ’n’ roll legend who is not Keith Richards; Geoffrey Rush returning as Sparrow’s frenemy, the peg-legged Hector Barbossa; and hang on through all the credits for a clue to whether there will be another Pirates film. To say more would spoil the fun. Chin-stroking arbiters of all that is artistic about cinema will say they’ve seen it all before. But I submit that Depp’s facial expressions alone are worth the price of a ticket, and that you’ll give Dead Men Tell No Tales a resounding AYE!