Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

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PHOENIX - Keira Knightley’s not setting sail this time around.  And you won’t see so much as a whisker from Orlando Bloom.  For this adventure, all scallywags are focused on finding the elusive Fountain of Youth.  Guess Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are too young to be concerned about aging, corrupt flesh.  Blackbeard, Barbossa and Jack Sparrow are another matter!

If you, like me and many others, were a little disappointed by this franchise’s last effort, you will be happy to know “Pirates of the Caribbean:  On Stranger Tides” is a leaner, tighter and all around more entertaining effort.  Even Depp seems to have cleaned up his act, giving us a Sparrow that is easier to understand and not quite so tipsy. 

Gone is the bloated 3 hours plus mess.  This time you only have to follow one concise storyline for a neat 2 hours.  Everyone is chasing the Fountain of Youth:  Barbossa is sailing under the Union Jack for King George (played beautifully by character actor great, Richard Griffiths); Spanish crusaders are searching to destroy what they perceive to be a blasphemous affront to God; Blackbeard is searching so that he can thwart a prophecy of his death; and our dear Captain Jack Sparrow is searching as only a true pirate would-for profit!

But when Jack finds out that someone is trying to round up a crew in his name he finds his imposter is none other than former lover Angelica.  After they take on each other, they find themselves battling together.  Next thing you know, Jack is knocked out and wakes up to find himself shanghaied.  The ship?  None other than Blackbeard’s.  And in an even more disturbing twist, Blackbeard’s First Officer in none other than Angelica, passing herself off as the bearded one’s long lost daughter.

Penelope Cruz as Angelica is fetching and funny.  Her verbal and physical sparring with Sparrow had a lot of wit.  Ian McShane is wonderfully sinister as evil incarnate, Blackbeard.  Geoffrey Rush reprises Barbossa with his usual smarmy panache.  Relative newcomer Sam Claflin was handsome and effective as preacher Philip, while Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Gemma Ward are haunting as those mesmerizing mermaids.  Last but not least, there’s a short, sweet treat of an appearance by Keith Richards.

My only complaint with the movie is that, for me personally, the franchise is getting old, in spite of the fresh faces and new Director Rob Marshall. While there are some inspired battles, there simply are so many and often in dark settings that it just gets to be boring.  On the plus side “Pirates of the Caribbean:  On Stranger Tides” still has plenty of great imagery and supernatural hijinks to keep things afloat.  Blackbeard provides much of that with his magic sword that causes all kinds of havoc like making ships come to life. 

And can we talk mermaids?  Once upon a time Disney brought us Daryl Hannah but now they have effectively wiped that imagery from my mind.  This time around, the beauties which seem to be a hybrid of sirens, vampires and fish, go on a feeding frenzy that makes quite a splash with audiences.   They are fierce!  Plus, “Pirates of the Caribbean:  On Stranger Tides” is in 3D, really crisp, clean 3D!  While the film is devoid of any 3D kitsch, I’m okay with that because the depth it gives the film is such a treat in itself.

As usual, stick around for closing credits to get a sneak peek at what’s in store for the
next installment.  I’m sure I will go but 5 films later I can’t imagine how they will be
able to make it not seem like more of the same.  Disney’s head of production,
Oren Aviv said that this would “hopefully be the first of another trilogy.”  Oh dear.

“Pirates of the Caribbean:  On Stranger Tides” captures 3&1/2 Red Vines for bringing the fun back

 A preview of this movie was provided to me by the studio but it in no way effects my unbiased review.