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Why Woody Allen Should Direct Pirates of the Caribbean 5

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End Woody’s rut and save a franchise, all in one unholy union.

There are two major new movies opening this weekend. Both look pretty bad. Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen's forty-first feature film as a writer/director, and although some of his movies rank among my all-time favorites, I haven’t rushed out to see a film by him in a decade. As for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, well, I lost all interest in that franchise midway through the long, bewildering second installment.

There’s only one way to save them both. Woody Allen will be cranking out another movie in less than a year, and Pirates 5 will excite studio execs as easily as the phrase "200 million dollars overseas." Two underwhelming movies that could be saved, if only we could unite them. Call it Woody Allen Presents Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

Let's face it, Woody's European phase has just about run its course. It was good for him to get away from his increasingly hermetic New York rut, and he was creatively revitalized by the move — at least in the cases of Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. (I won't go to bat for the limp comedy Scoop or the virtual Match Point remake Cassandra's Dream.) But once again, the formula has grown stale — it's the same romantic entanglements and neurotic preoccupations, with more cobblestones. He’s ready for a change.

That's where Pirates comes in. If any director needs to step outside his comfort zone, it's Allen. Trying to connect with a mass audience might be just the exercise his atrophied creative muscles need. Now, it's hard to remember, seeing him churn out these European indie movies, that Woody Allen was once a very mainstream filmmaker. After all, he became famous in the first place because he could make a lot of people laugh, and let's not forget that Annie Hall beat out Star Wars for Best Picture back in 1977. Even without that history, it's not like he'd be the first arthouse auteur to step behind the camera for a major studio franchise; Alfonso Cuaron's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is widely regarded as the best entry in that series, and last week's Thor was directed by none other than Mr. Shakespeare himself, Kenneth Branagh.

I know what you're thinking: why the hell would Disney put one of their most valuable properties in the hands of a seventy-five-year-old man who hasn't had a mainstream hit since the Reagan administration? The answer is, of course, that they wouldn't.

And yet I’d urge them to reconsider. Allen has always been adept at handling comedic ensemble casts, and actors love working with him. He's already worked with Penelope Cruz. Plus, Johnny Depp (who's always loved auteur types) is an adventurous actor who must be getting a little bored with Captain Jack Sparrow by now. Why not invest the character with some Allen-esque existential malaise? ("Aargh, what good are all the gold doubloons in the world when every one of us winds up in Davy Jones' Locker in the end?") Anyway, the overstuffed Pirates series could use some streamlining, and since most of Allen's movies clock in at a tidy ninety minutes or so, he could be just the man for the job.

Okay, so there's probably a better chance of Martin Scorsese directing the next Saw movie than Woody Allen ever raising the Jolly Roger over the Black Pearl. But when a filmmaker and a movie franchise are both running on fumes, joining forces could provide just the spark they both need.