Yarrgghh! This sequel to 2003’s surprise hit charts a course through familiar waters, happy to reprise most of the first film’s salty-dog pleasures. Orlando Bloom still dashes heroically about, and Keira Knightley continues to exude a tomboyish allure. Two inept pirate sidekicks once again provide comic relief (and at one point, recap plot developments for anyone who may have fallen asleep during the preceding half hour), while evil British officials elicit the same boo-hiss catcalls as before. Most important, however, is the return of Jack Sparrow (Depp), the most charming rapscallion ever to illegally sail the seven seas. Depp turns in another virtuosic display of mugging tics—rolling his eyes, cocking his head like a curious canine, creeping cartoonishly before breaking into an exaggerated sprint. When Depp is allowed to simply cut loose, the movie feels like it’s indeed sailing full speed ahead.
The added elements, however, don’t exactly enhance the experience of watching Jack and friends hunt down a treasure chest holding the heart of Davy Jones (Nighy). Yes, Jones’s crustacean-like crew is impressively evil, but did we need three sequences of a CGI sea monster tearing apart schooners? Swashbuckling now takes a backseat to effects-heavy set pieces; when a three-way sword battle finally gets under way, the overdue derring-do is like a tonic. There’s a tad too much dead space in Dead Man’s Chest, though the cliff-hanger ending suggests the real thrills are still to come. Here’s hoping the third verse is the same as the first. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear