In my campaign review for The Rum Diary I wrote:
There’s some good stuff here. The emphasis, of course, is on promising the audience that they’re in for a crazy, whacked out Depp performance that this time is geared more for adults than the kids the POTC franchise appeals to. It might go a little hard into that particular paint, though, and overplay just how kooky and psychedelic the movie really is, though, in that effort. But it’s still a nice collection of elements even if it doesn’t really add up to a cohesive and whole branding effort. There’s just too much going on here, likely the result of the studio trying out different approaches that it never quite comes together.
Nope, that’s about right. The movie is ludicrous while at the same time being pretty grounded. If anything the full thing comes off as a bit disjointed in a way the marketing didn’t. Where the campaign presented everything sort of playing into the whole, the movie is more divided between scenes of hallucinatory excess and other debauchery and the craving to do solid journalism in an unwelcome environment. So one minute Depp’s characters and others are tripping balls and seeing things and the next minute they’re trying to do serious investigative reporting.
As I said about the campaign itself, the movie is a collection of elements that don’t really add up to anything as a whole. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable – I like the movie quite a bit and really dug most of Depp’s performance though it was really Michael Rispoli as Sala I enjoyed consistently – but it just never figures out what tone it wants to take. With one notable exception there are very few repercussions for the excess inebriation Depp’s character and others find themselves in, heightening the sense that there are separate stories on display here.