At the Movies: Depp getting a tad old in pirate costume

The latest "Pir­ates of the Carib­bean" se­quel could be bet­ter. Good luck hunt­ing for bur­ied treas­ure.

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-

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