Catholic News Service Movie Reviews

05/31/2017

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — Iconic and eccentric buccaneer Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) hoists the black flag for a fifth time in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (Disney). The result is a flashy but ultimately unsatisfying journey for the theme park ride-based franchise that first set sail in 2003.

On the upside, the crowded, overlong proceedings are relatively family-friendly. So parents willing to overlook some adult punning may give mature teens the go-ahead to board.

This time out, Jack joins forces with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a young science scholar whose ahead-of-her-time learning has led her to be charged with witchcraft, and with Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), an equally youthful sailor. Henry is the son of Jack’s old associates Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) Turner.

All three main characters are seeking the same magical artifact, the Trident of Poseidon, each for a different reason. They’re pursued along the hunt by the British navy, by the ghost of Capt. Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), one of Jack’s old adversaries, and by living but one-legged freebooter Capt. Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

As directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, “Dead Men” is a special effects-driven adventure long on spectacle but short on human interest. The mayhem is almost all stylized, however, and the dialogue is virtually free of vulgarity.

One scene, played for laughs, finds an incidental character — who subsequently turns out to be married — in a compromising situation with Jack.

The humour, such as it is, jokingly reinforces Jack reputation as a womanizer while also deflating the ego of the cheater’s husband, a pompous town official on the island of St. Martin. It’s a frivolous treatment of a serious subject, but the script quickly passes on to other matters.

On the other side of the moral ledger, late plot developments set the stage for a climactic act of self-sacrificing parental love. And Henry and Carina, who are obviously destined for each other, content themselves, once their bickering morphs into love, with kissing.

The film contains much action violence with little blood, brief implications of adultery, a single gruesome image, occasional mature wordplay and at least one crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

Baywatch

By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (CNS) — Eye candy and escapism were the draw of the television series from which director Seth Gordon’s action comedy “Baywatch” (Paramount) has been adapted.

Whatever success the show — which began on NBC but had a longer life in syndication — may have had back in the 1990s, it takes more than an ensemble of good-looking people running around in bathing suits to sustain a feature film.

And, since neither Gordon nor screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift can seem to decide whether they’re out to make a pop-culture spoof or a crime-solving adventure, their film turns out to be a predictably shallow mess.

Matters are not helped by the absurdly earnest tone in which the conflict at the centre of the plot is put forward to the audience. This clash pits newcomer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) against Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson), the longtime leader of the lifeguarding team of the title.

A disgraced Olympic swimmer whose selfish ways and fondness for partying cost his team a medal, Matt bucks against Mitch’s ethos of co-operation and mutual concern. As the dialogue heavy-handedly seeks to drive home, however, lives could be endangered if Matt doesn’t learn to collaborate with his new colleagues.

Like the group’s sober-toned effort to foil scheming real-estate developer — and possible drug dealer — Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), talk about the potentially fatal consequences of Matt’s ego-driven mistakes rings hollow when interspersed with lingering views of barely clad bodies.

The serious sleuthing also jars against the surfeit of low-minded humour in “Baywatch,” much of which displays a preoccupation with male characters’ crotches. This misguided motif reaches a low point with a prolonged sight gag involving the private parts of a cadaver. While the movie’s self-conscious flesh peddling is mostly just tiresome, this effort to reap gross-out giggles from less appealing anatomy registers as degrading.

The film contains some gunplay and physical violence with momentary but extreme gore, strong sexual content, including full nudity and off-screen non-marital activity, several profanities and a few milder oaths as well as pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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