Remember when “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” came out eight years ago, and you thought, “Wow, Disney must be really scrapping the bottom of the barrel if they’re turning 50-year-old amusement park rides into major motion pictures?”
Then remember how totally awesome it was? And how you hope that every subsequent sequel will recapture that awesomeness, but it never does?
The fourth “Pirates” installment, “On Stranger Tides,” covers a lot of familiar ground. Jack, excuse me, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is conscripted by his former flame, and possible daughter of Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Angelica (Penelope Cruz) to lead an expedition to the Fountain of Youth.
Blackbeard’s ship has magical powers and is run by zombies. (Huh, a ship run by a crew of the dead, where have I seen this before?) Jack has to stay one step ahead of Blackbeard while trying to get to the fountain before Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who’s now a peg-legged, wig wearing privateer for King George, and a Spanish armada. (Multiple ships all searching for the same treasure, that sounds a little familiar.)
If you’ve seen one “Pirates,” you’ve pretty much seen them all. This time around there’s no Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley, but I’m okay with that. Their storyline ran it’s course in the first one, and they were unnecessary in the second and third films. To fill the young lover void this go around, we have a cleric who falls in love with a mermaid (more about them later), but again, that storyline is unnecessary.
Depp and Rush have always been the real stars of the movie, and again they steal the show. They have a wonderful chemistry with each other; my favorite scenes are watching them battle each other, whether it be with swords or witty banter.
The newcomers to the cast do a fine job. I would have liked a little more backstory on the Jack-Angelica relationship but it would probably just get lost in the already crowded exposition.
Like the mermaids. I told you I’d get back to them. Apparently, the water from the Fountain of Youth only works if it’s mixed with the tear of a mermaid. Who knew?
So the pirates have to catch a mermaid and make her cry. But these mermaids aren’t your average Ariel. They’re mean, vicious, horrible creatures. They use their beauty to lure sailors into the water where their vampire-like fangs materialize and they devour the men. They sully the good name of mermaids everywhere!
You don’t go to “Pirates” for CGI creatures, or unexplainable hocus pocus, or expendable love story.
You go for Captain Jack Sparrow. You go for Johnny Depp’s crazy fantastic performance. You go for the one-liners, clever innuendos that go above younger viewers heads, and extravagant escape plans that he concocks.
For those reasons, you won’t be dissappointed. The opening getaway, with Jack escaping King George, is particulary entertaining and includes a cameo from Judi Dench that’s a lot of fun.
Is it as good as the first one? No, but I doubt any of them will be. (Yes, there will be more.) But it was as good as I expected it to be. And besides, it could always be worse, the next theme park attraction turned summer blockbuster could be “It’s a Small World.”