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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REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

20 10 2009

PREFACE: I mentioned back in Random Factoid #42 that I had gone through a stint of reviewing movies when I was 13.  After rummaging through my old home computer, I managed to find some of these reviews.  In a special five day mini-series, I will reveal these reviews in their unadulterated form.  I leave it up to you to comment, see how my style has changed (or maybe hasn’t).  The first movie reviewed in the series is “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

Something that the new installment of the extremely popular Pirates of the Caribbean series has in common with its predecessor is that it is a thrill ride.  However, they are much different. The Curse of the Black Pearl was smooth and fun, while Dead Man’s Chest is bumpy and leaves you with a headache.  Johnny Depp’s once-energetic character Jack Sparrow is starting to get on my nerves with his stale humor and over exaggerated body movements.  An intriguing and creative story is followed by a corny and horribly planned sequel.  The movie jumps right in to the action by showing Elizabeth Swann’s (Keira Knightley) ruined wedding to Will Turner (Orlando Bloom).  A lord not from the first movie comes out of the blue with a warrant for their arrest, which states that they should die for helping Jack Sparrow avoid his death.  How someone not around at the time of these acts can arrest them for it, not to mention how overdue this was, is just another flaw in the horrendous script.  Meanwhile, Jack Sparrow is being hunted down by Davy Jones (Bill Nighy, who unfortunately is hidden behind a computer animated face of tentacles) and wants his soul.  Jack needs souls to offer up souls to save his own, so he gives away Will Turner’s, who is after a compass of Jack’s in exchange for him and Elizabeth’s freedom.  The rest of the film is a random blur of CG effects as everyone searches and escapes.  Will searches for an escape from Davy Jones’ ship, Elizabeth searches for Jack who can help her to find Will, and Jack selfishly looks for the Dead Man’s Chest which will save his soul.  They all must escape the Kraken, which will drag them down to Davy Jones’ locker.  However, for all the pain of the first 140 minutes, the last five gain it partial redemption and might convince you to return for the third installment.  All I have to say is if it took three years to come out with a sequel this horrific, I am scared to see what At World’s End will be like after only one.  2stars