Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

In theaters.

The sequel was never going to be as much fun as the original. The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie succeeded because its charm was so unexpected: the wildly goofy story, the boisterous score and, of course, Johnny Depp's wonderfully weird performance, sneaking a cult-movie sensibility into a studio extravaganza. The sheer surprise of finding that much giddy joy in what appeared to be a by-the-numbers action movie made Pirates of the Caribbean charming.

How could the sequel hope to duplicate that, to again surprise us when the memory of the first surprise is what brought us to the theater in the first place? The makers of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest attempt to compensate for the lack of surprise by offering more — more pirates, more Depp, more action, more supernatural silliness — but their eagerness to please strains the movie's appeal. Subplots for every character weigh the story down. The set pieces feel contrived rather than organic, with director Gore Verbinski virtually shrieking, "Look at this! Isn't this cool?" Even some of Depp's loopy behavior feels like pandering now that his Captain Jack Sparrow is no longer a risk, no longer original.