A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth Pirates film starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. It focuses on a mission Sparrow shares with Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) -- the only son of earlier franchise stars William Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), neither of whom appears much in the film. This time around, an older, drunker (he downs a lot of rum) Sparrow faces yet another great enemy: the ghost of a pirate-killing Spanish captain, Salazar (Javier Bardem). As usual for this series, expect lots of action violence and a high body count, with lots of close-range sword-fighting and killings (Salazar only ever leaves one man alive aboard a ship). People die in gun battles, from drowning, via burning, and from having their throats slit. The romance is light and limited to Sparrow's innuendos, some double-meaning jokes, and a couple of kisses. Language is mild, mostly limited to "damn" and "hell." Despite the popularity of this franchise -- and the fact that it offers messages about unconditional family love, women's intelligence/worth, and teamwork -- it's still too scary for young kids.
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What's the story?
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES follows two young, intelligent treasure-seekers who must form an uneasy alliance with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to look for the one thing that will help each of them make peace with their fathers. One of them is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the 19-year-old son of Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley, unseen) and William Turner (Orlando Bloom), who's now the cursed captain of The Flying Dutchman and can only go ashore once every 10 years. Henry believes that the mythical Poseidon's Trident can break Will's curse. So he teams up with astronomer Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), who's accused of being a witch because of her scientific knowledge. After both Carina and a down-on-his-luck Jack Sparrow (who has no ship, no crew, and no lingering fortune) are saved, the trio sets off to find the Trident. But not only are they being hunted by the Royal Navy -- who wants all three of them to hang -- but also by a more menacing crew of Spanish ghost sailors who were condemned to die because of a young Sparrow. The pirate-killing Spanish ghost captain, Salazar (Javier Bardem), wants to find and kill Jack, but he can't step on land. So Salazar allows Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to help him track down Sparrow -- and the Trident.
Is it any good?
Despite the fun cameos, talented cast, and Sparrow's familiar rum and innuendo-laden jokes, this movie proves that some franchises need to just end. Certainly there's a certain amount of humor to enjoy in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, particularly the sort that pays tribute to Sparrow's love of drink and women -- not to mention a celebrity cameo in which Jack thinks he's bumping into his father (Keith Richards, if you recall) in a Caribbean prison but instead realizes it's his uncle, played by arguably the most famous English singer alive. But that moment can't make up for a sloppy plot that's both convoluted and ridiculously convenient. For example, Carina may not be a real witch, but there is one, played by Golshifteh Farahani, and she manages to help whomever, whenever, for apparently no reason at all. And then orphaned Carina finds her father in the most obvious of places.
It's hard to have ill will toward toward a film franchise that can be such fun when it get things right, but at this point, these films are just formulaic. And without Knightley and Bloom as the young lovers, even the romance feels forced. Thwaites and Scodelario are both attractive, sure, but there's so more to developing romance than throwing two beautiful people in the same scene. There's just not much there, love-story wise. And the same can be said for the movie as a whole. Naturally, Bardem is always up for playing a compelling villain, but Salazar's laser-focused need for vengeance against Sparrow is borderline pathetic. It's obvious that even his own crew of pirate-killing ghost sailors wants him to get over it. It would be wonderful to think this is indeed the final Pirates movie, but considering the box-office rewards, it's possible Depp will be starring in sequels until he looks like Richards.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. How much of it is necessary to the story? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
How is drinking depicted in the movie? Is it treated lightly? What message does that send?
What's the appeal of the character of Captain Jack Sparrow? Do you think that appeal is as strong as it's always been?
What role do fathers play in the story? Why do you think fractured, missing father-child relationships are so prevalent in hero stories?
- In theaters: May 26, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: October 3, 2017
- Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario
- Directors: Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Pirates
- Run time: 129 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content
- Last updated: January 8, 2021
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