Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides feels fresh and fun
Starring Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, and Ian McShane. Rated PG. Now playing
The fourth go-round in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchaise manages to take a fresh look at what made the concept so appealing in the first place. Under director Rob Marshall, there’s noticeably more emphasis on character as opposed to computer generated effects. We’re not talking huge changes to the formula here. But compared to the last effort—2007’s hopeless bloated At World’s End—On Stranger Tides is the cinematic equivalent of a sprightly jig.
It’s hard to imagine a movie that clocks in at more than two hours and fifteen minutes as brisk. But Marshall keeps things moving at an energetic pace, especially for the first hour or so. There’s enough impressive swashbuckling here to remind you of those old Errol Flynn movies. The bonus? Given Marshall’s background as a choreographer, it’s not surprising to see a dash of Gene Kelly tossed in for good measure.
This time around, there seems to be a much more solid core to anchor all the dizzy fun. We get a bigger swig of Johnny Depp’s charmingly woozy Jack Sparrow and the kind of stripped story line that makes for blissfully clear sailing. All you really need to know is that Captain Jack is in search of the legendary Fountain of Youth. Along the way, he bumps into a fiery old flame (Penélope Cruz) and the usual assortment of conniving sea dogs.
Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbossa, the kind of scurvy ham you’d be lucky to get for your kid’s birthday party. New additions include an admirably low-key Ian McShane as Blackbeard. Best of all, there are no giant sea monsters to drag us into subplot hell. What do we get instead? A surprisingly touching side story involving a renegade mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey). I’ll take that over a giant octopus any day.
Watch the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.