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Sunken Sequel 

Orlando Bloom may be pretty, but his boring acting sure can destroy movies

The second time out for Johnny Depp's wily Captain Jack Sparrow, the bloated Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest has some fatal flaws. The biggest problem would be the presence of Orlando Bloom, an actor capable of bringing the grandest movies to a complete halt (and not for any good reason) when he appears on screen. Another big problem is that the film's 2 1/2-hour running time isn't justified. There might be enough here for a decent hour and a half, but its present cut is outrageous.

Director Gore Verbinski has certainly made a good-looking movie, a dark sequel that often feels like a bona fide horror film. While Depp remains major fun as Sparrow, Bloom is equal amounts boring as Will Turner. He is one of the worst actors out there right now (his painful emoting in Elizabethtown and Kingdom of Heaven serving as proof). Nothing feels natural with Bloom, so when he's sharing the screen with a freewheeling performer like Depp, he appears totally amateur.

The twisting plot involves something to do with a chest containing the still-beating heart of the legendary Davy Jones. Sparrow has a debt to settle with the dead pirate, and when he goes looking for the chest's key, he stirs up trouble. The ghostly Jones and his crew emerge from the ocean for a visit, and Sparrow must run for his life.

At one point, Sparrow tricks Will (master thespian Bloom) into an encounter with Jones. Will becomes a prisoner on Sparrow's crew, which brings about a rendezvous with his doomed father, Bootstrap Bill Turner (played with appropriate melancholy by Stellan Skarsgård). Not surprisingly, Skarsgård upstages Bloom during every second they spend on screen together.

Bill Nighy, under a mass of CGI facial tentacles as the villainous Davy Jones, makes for one hilarious and disgusting bad guy. When he first shows up, smoking a pipe and popping his dialogue, it's clear that we're witnessing a spectacular combination of special effects and performance. His character is constantly engaging and always a marvel to look at. If Bloom were replaced with more Nighy, I'd probably be giving this one a mild recommendation.

Also fun to watch is Davy Jones' crew, an array of doomed pirates who have absorbed the characteristics of various sea creatures. Hammerhead sharks, barnacles, sea crabs and more combine with pirate features to make for some rather frightening monsters. This--combined with multiple throat cuts and eyes getting gouged out by ravens--makes the sequel a bit too nasty for the young ones. An octopus-like sea monster that grabs sailors and sucks entire ships into the sea will also fuel preadolescent nightmares.

Keira Knightley returns as Elizabeth Swann, and while she's a decent enough performer, a subplot involving her masquerading as a man feels like padding. The end of the movie is nothing but a setup for chapter three (due in theaters next year) featuring a cameo that provides a decent enough surprise.

If you are planning to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (and the first weekend's boffo box office shows that most of the United States is probably going to see this thing), do yourself a favor and attend a nice, early showing. Its huge running time makes it an evening killer and, if you opt for one of those 11 p.m. screenings, a lethal catalyst for sleep deprivation.

I have to conclude with one more rant on Bloom: I can't recall a time that I liked this guy in a movie (he was tolerable in The Lord of the Rings trilogy), and I wish he'd get into some sort of salary dispute with Disney and get his ass recast. He's a real movie-wrecker.

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