REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

24 05 2011

Perhaps a more accurate surname for the latest installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” would have been In Familiar Waters.  Despite numerous changes to signal a distinctly different volume in the saga than the original trilogy, “On Stranger Tides” feels just like more of what we’ve seen the series do – and then overdo.  In fact, I found myself wondering if I’ve seen the movie before, and deja vu in a movie theater is never good.

Suggested by the novel “On Stranger Tides” (a phrase taken straight from the credits, which is something I’ve never seen before), the plot unfolds just as the previous three did.  A mystical and mythical booty awaits, this time the Fountain of Youth, coveted by the British, the Spanish, and – you guessed it – Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp reprising his iconic role).  Their journeys are fraught with just enough peril and tumult to endure two and a half hours on the screen.

Most of the movie just feels like a $250 million (yes, that was the actual pricetag) straight-to-DVD sequel for the series that managed to net its big star for a hefty paycheck.  Slight scene changes give the movie a new look but not a new feel.  Director Rob Marshall, who directed the film adaptation of “Chicago” with an almost prophetic foresight, settles for his best imitation of Gore Verbinski and doesn’t put his own mark on the movie.

No Keira Knightley?  No problem, just replace the British beauty with the sassy Spanish starlet Penelope Cruz and get essentially the same romantic foil for Captain Jack.  No Orlando Bloom?  Just add in Sam Claffin, a British missionary that will make girls swoon – oh, and don’t forget that gratuitous shirtless scene!  Geoffrey Rush’s storyline has gotten kind of boring?  Refashion him as a sell-out to the crown and give him a peg leg!

Thankfully, the saving grace of the movie is Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, the reason that the series became such a hit in the first place.  The movie gives him a lot more humor to chew on, and Depp definitely seems a lot more into his character this go-round.  He doesn’t recede into a bad imitation of himself but rather animates Jack with spunk and teeth.  However, as much fun as he is to watch, neither Depp nor the movie earn their bloated running time, which makes 150 minutes often seem interminable.

So by all means, if you like the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series enough to watch Disney churn out a third sequel purely for commerce, then this will be fun summer entertainment.  But if you crave something unique, or dare I say, original to justify expending your time and paying for ridiculously puffed-up ticket prices, perhaps you should stay at home and wait until some critic calls a movie “as original as Inception.”  C+ / 

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3 responses

24 05 2011
CMrok93

This one didn’t feel as epic as the second and third Pirates films and in many ways that’s a good thing. I also wish they did more with Captain Jack, but Depp is always amusing as him, and I still had some fun with this enjoyable Summer blockbuster. Good review, check out mine when you can!

24 05 2011
Tom Clift

You’re right that a lot of the film seems recycled, and most of the changes in the characters are for the worse (WHY was Barbossa even in this film?!?!)

Personally I wasn’t even a fan of Depp this time around. Jack Sparrow is a great character, but he’s too quirky to carry a whole film, and I think Depp knows it. His performance seemed really unenthusiastic.

27 05 2011
Joel

I hate this film. Hate it. “The Curse of the Black Pearl” is superb, “At World’s End” is fun, “Dead Man’s Chest” is awful.

But this was a new low. Just horrendous. Depp looked bored, Rush was wasted, Marshall’s a hugely overrated director and brings nothing interesting to the table. Yuck.

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