After saving the Pearl's First Mate Gibbs (Kevin McNally) from hanging in a case of mistaken identity, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) tracks down his real imposter and discovers Angelica (Penélope Cruz), a woman he loved and left but never quite forgot. But the real surprise is that Angelica is the daughter of the fearsome Blackbeard (Ian 'Deadwood' McShane, "Sexy Beast"), who shanghais Sparrow to lead him to the Fountain of Youth before his prophesied death at the hands of a one-legged man. Meanwhile Sparrow's nemesis Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech"), now a peg-legged pirate, has been commissioned by King George (Richard Griffiths, "Harry Potter's" Vernon Dursley) to beat the Spanish to the same goal in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."
Why is it that the "Fast & Furious" gang can keep on going but the enormously inventive Johnny Depp has lashed himself onto a sinking ship? Because the car gang have developed character relationships and streamlined but over-the-top adrenaline rushes whereas the very surprise of Depp's performance is long gone, lost amidst the noise of too much plodding plot. The first time we met Captain Jack, it was with an awed delight. What a perverse balancing act he pulled off. But now, Captain Jack is more of a punch line with his mincing totter, fluttering wrists and gold-toothed lushy mush mouth. Depp and the filmmaking team, including new director Rob Marshall ("Chicago," "Nine") and returning scribes Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, have attempted to rejuvenate the series and to a degree they have, but the film's still too long and not exhilarating enough to remedy "Pirates" fatigue.
Presumably, the fourth edition is meant to introduce Jack's 'heart,' but Jack's never been a true blackguard and, although Cruz is game and looks awfully fetching in pirate's garb, there's no real romance or heat there. Only once, when Jack does a heroic deed to spare her, do we catch an inkling of a bond between the two. There's much more enjoyment to be had with Jack's frenemy Barbossa. Rush, looking like a moldy cheese, is having a ball and there's a logic to the Barbossa/Sparrow partnership, especially when they're up against the world's most dreaded pirate. But again, the film fails us with a Blackbeard who just isn't horrifying enough. The mighty McShane has gone too soft, despite the best efforts of makeup artists savvy enough to make his beard braids smolder. This version of Blackbeard is supernatural, his officers 'zombified' (to little advantage), captured ships magically miniaturized in glass bottles (nice touch). Much more fun are the treacherous mermaids, visualized as a cross between leaping dolphins and frenzied sharks.
But there's just too much clomping around, first at sea, then through the jungles (of Oahu and Kauai). Sparrow's got two killer, laugh-out-loud lines, one gay innuendo, the other straight, and there's an early surprise cameo from a beloved Dame. Then there's the non sequitur subplot of religious cleric Philip (Sam Claflin, TV's 'The Pillars of the Earth'), whose romance with mermaid Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey, "The Sea Wall") seems only to exist as a thread to tie into a fifth installment.
That plus two plus hours of the dreaded 3D glasses all for three thrusts of the sword and a skeleton's bony hand. The film may not have found its own Fountain of Youth, but it trends enough in the right general direction to bow out before its joints have completely stiffened.
Robin did not see this film.
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10 | Video
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