Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Rating: **
Review Date: 5/31/11
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penélope Cruz, Ian McShane, Sam Claflin, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, cameos by Gemma Ward, Keith Richards, Judi Dench

As if the last two sequels weren't bad enough, Walt Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer continue to wring every last dollar out of the weary "Pirates Of The Caribbean" franchise. The Spanish receive a promising lead on Ponce de Leon's doomed expedition to find the Fountain Of Youth, and mount an expedition to investigate. The English won't settle for the Spaniards finding it first, so they put together their own expedition under the leadership of a reformed Captain Barbossa (scene stealing Geoffrey Rush). The infamous pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) is also seeking the fountain with the aid of a beautiful and deceitful Angelica (Penélope Cruz). So where does Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) fit into all of this? He has a map to the fountain's location, which both Barbossa and Angelica are trying to get their hands on. He ultimately falls for Angelica's charms and finds himself serving on Blackbeard's ship, but Jack is his own man and a master of manipulating people and situations to his advantage.

While it's a first rate production and a great looking film, the story never seems to come together and none of it is particularly memorable. The only part that stands out in my mind is Gemma Ward's delightfully inviting performance as a mermaid. She is simply spellbinding, and it's easy to imagine being lured to a watery grave by her charms. Johnny Depp brings his usual goofy charm to Jack Sparrow, but you can tell that he's grown tired of the character and no real effort is spent on developing him any further. Much like "At World's End", Geoffrey Rush is the only one who looks like he's really enjoying himself, and he tears through the film with relish. Ian McShane makes a great Blackbeard, and while he's definitely a powerful and evil man, he is also a sensitive and sympathetic villain. Penélope Cruz is pleasant and always easy on the eye, but sadly has little to do other than look pretty and exchange wits with Depp. Angelica is just as conniving and duplicitous as Jack, but her potential is wasted.

As I feared, all of the good parts in the film show up in the trailer, so there's actually very little reason to see the full movie. I was never invited to care about any of the characters, and the plot structure basically revolves around how Jack is going to get into and out of his next predicament. The film also suffers in the action department, as the fight scenes are ruined by bad editing. While Disney claims that parts 5 and 6 are already in the works, Depp has commented that it's time to retire the character and move on. Much like the last two "Pirates" movies, "On Stranger Tides" is a family friendly serving of delicious eye candy, but it has no staying power and is instantly forgettable.