Johnny Depp's kleptomaniacal vagabond is at it again! Board yer vessel...oh, wait. There's no boats? What do you ride in a pirate ride that doesn't have boats?...Oh, wait. It's a standing room-only theater? That lasts 10 minutes? Tell me it at least keeps true to what we've come to know and love about the beloved Pirates of the Caribbean franchise!...SON OF A-(Please stand by.)
Whew. I'm sorry, everyone, but there be no treasure buried here. You wait in an outdoor queue before going into a dark room, with the only scenery being a wooden door and a really freaky-looking pirate skull. It's a sweet nod to the classic touch on the original Disneyland ride...until he starts speaking in a very unconvincing, overexaggerated pirate dialect. He invites us to join Sparrow's crew, if we're brave enough...blah blah blah, dead men tell, blah...Oh! We're going inside! Yippee!
Remember how dark and uninvitng the Isla de Muerta caverns were in Curse of the Black pearl? Well, you're standing in the middle of it now with 50 other guests who are all tired of standing. In the stage/ship, Jack himself - delightfully recreated by Depp himself yet again - staggers and slurs in surprise at all the Floridian tourists and bickers with a now GIANT DISEMBODIED talking pirate skull with an exaggerated dialect. The CGI effects here are fantastic, but that's the best thing here.
Several different tasks are performed here. Zombie pirates arise from the dead, and a randomly selected child is given a key to thwart them. Jones' kraken appears (Along with the worst Bill Nighy impression I've ever heard.), and you must...roar at it to scare it away? Uh-oh! Mermaids! Don't be seduced by the singing! You gotta...stomp...to drown them out? When all's ridiculously said and foolishly done, Jack honors everyone as pirates, sings a verse or so of the classic "Yo ho, A Pirate's Life for Me" before you ushered out into the blinding sunlight and not even extended the courtesy of a gift shop.
(Deep breath.) In all maturity, I'd assume the lack of space was the main problem for the lack of anything truly engaging. You can't build a full-scale ride when your space consists of two rooms. But when I heard what was going in place here, I assumed it'd at least be a small museum with costumes, set pieces, script pages, renderings, models, etc. I mean, it IS Disney's Hollywood Studios, where they show us how they make the movies, right? But because Disney's main drive is to get guests literally involved in the attractions (Not a bad goal, to be sure.), it reeks of focus group statistics and reminds me of the Pressler/Harris era at Disneyland. Minus the actual merchandise.
However, my main issue is its lack of inspiration and inability to focus. The interior settings are dark and foreboding, and yet the story is as though it were ripped out of "Jake and the Neverland Pirates". It rehashes several keys from the movies - The kraken, the mermaids, Davy Jones, even Scarlet, the Redhead - without any frame of reference or anything resembling an homage. In the end, nothing is achieved for Jack, and nothing for you that you couldn't also get out of the Pirate Tutorial at the Magic Kingdom with a lot more gaiety. So what are we to learn? What was attained? I am at a loss.
It is fun to see Depp himself as Jack, and the CGI was so real I constantly questioned throughout the show whether or not he was real. But I also say the Stitch animatronic at "Stitch's Great Escape" is the one best part of the attraction. Even if a museum about the Pirates franchise would be a bit more uninspired than this, it'd a least be diverting and educational. To bring this around, I feel, would require some serious retooling before I can recommend it. Like what about some cannons to fire at Jones, like at DisneyQuest?
Avast, matey...'Tis a sorry sight t'see yer fellow buccaneers be sunk ta Davy Jones' locker with nary a prayer, especially if that lad be a fellow like Jack. But keep a weathered eye open mates. For if thar be a change in course on the horizon, we best grasp our cutlasses and voice our discontent. A cap'n like Jack deserves a greater honor than 100 years afore the mast like this. Stay clear of these troubled waters lads, 'fore this place be cursed! Yet thar be plenty of opportunity at Toy Story down yonder, who be up for shootin' pies at targets?!