Ahoy mateys, it’s time to bring out the fun pirate lingo in honor of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Basically, I’m among the many who thought the ship for this film series had sailed and that walking the plank might be more fun — and definitely take less time — than sitting through a two-and-a-half-hour movie.
Yes, it’s true, in 2007 I said At World’s End should be the end of the movie series based on an amusement park ride. Sure, it had been wildly successful at the box office, but it seemed like the writers were hurting for a good story idea by the time the third installment rolled around.
Someone at Disney still must see dollar signs for the Pirates of the Caribbean series and must have thrown a lot of dough at Johnny Depp to entice him to return to play America’s (the world’s?) favorite pirate for a fourth time in On Stranger Tides. In case you’ve never seen the films, Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow, a lovable but loopy, drunken pirate who wreaks havoc on everything he touches. Depp seems to be having less fun in the role than he has in the past, and his performance is more perfunctory than crowd-pleasing.
One big change in On Stranger Tides is the departure of two major characters. Gone are Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), who have been replaced by a new character, Angelica (Penelope Cruz). This really wound up being for the best; Bloom and Knightley had become rather dull by the third movie. Cruz infuses some spice to the flick as she banters and flirts with Depp. Still, her character suffers from a lack of any development throughout the film, and when she’s not being flirty, Cruz can seem wooden.
Another change is in the director’s chair, which had been inhabited by Gore Verbinski. Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha) sits in it this time around, and there’s no real discernible difference to the average viewer.
Something called the Fountain of Eternal Youth is the focal point of On Stranger Tides. Jack, Angelica and her father, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), are in search of this magic fountain, but there are a few others who hope to get to it first. Viewers may remember Jack’s nemesis Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who is among those also trying to get to the fountain.
There are plenty of action scenes to help flesh out the thin plot, but it’s nothing that I haven’t seen before (despite the presence of 3-D in my screening).
At two hours and 20 minutes, the movie is seriously bloated and overlong. This is probably much too long to hold the attention of a small child, Disney’s main audience.
On Stranger Tides isn’t the worst film in the series — that title still belongs to At World’s End — but it’s definitely not worth rushing to see in the theater. We’re in the thick of the summer blockbuster movie season now, which means the next big flick is always just a week away. ••
Movie Grade: C-