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:: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Following a four-year high-seas hiatus, Captain Jack is back in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Disney's moderately successful attempt to breathe new life into their phenomenally successful franchise.

Johnny Depp once again reprises his legendary characterisation of Captain Jack Sparrow, the wobbly, rock-god of a pirate that is solely responsible for re-igniting the cinema's love affair with swashbuckling adventure. And truthfully, he is still great — the film would run on fumes if not for Depp's injection of wicked verve. In On Stranger Tides, Sparrow is the film's sole focus, with the film freed of the Orlando Bloom-Keira Knightley romance that started as charming but grew wearisome with each subsequent installment. But in actuality, that romance, tired or not, brought a certain gravity to the earlier Pirates films, a human counterpoint to Captain Jack's loony antics. With nothing to ground the film, we are left with a screenplay that allots for plenty of Sparrow-isms but very little character development. In between uninspiring action sequences and interminable plot exposition, it just seems like Depp is prancing about for the camera with no goal other than to goof off.

The story in which Depp prances revolves around the search for the mythical “Fountain of Youth” — everyone wants to access it, and Captain Jack knows how to find it. The point and purpose of said fountain might seem self-explanatory, and yet the film becomes so bogged down that we never feel the weight of the discovery, nor understand its power. That wouldn't be so offensive if the movie attained the same level of sparkling quirkiness as did the original, but instead it is more cumbersome and less engaging than even the two previous sequels, Dead Man's Chest and At World's End.

Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio try their best to develop characters with chemistry. Captain Jack leads the way, and is given a capable female foil in the form of Angelica (Penelope Cruz), a former flame who is also in search of the Fountain of Youth. They find themselves on a ship commanded by unscrupulous rogue Blackbeard (Ian McShane), who may or may not be Angelica's father. The three mistrusting shipmates set out to reach the Fountain, while Captain Jack's old foe, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), stays hot on their trail. While they exchange cheeky verbal bon mots in a fashion similar to the previous films, all of the characters feel strained, and the story they inhabit feels like stale leftovers.

The temptation to do something fresh is often outweighed by the fear of losing whatever it was that made it successful in the first place. This tries to do both, but ends up just trying too hard.

DVD Extras

Bloopers of the Caribbean
Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: Captain Jack’s Brick Tales (First Impressions & To Catch A Mermaid)