Toon Talk: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
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By the time a successful film franchise hits the fourth installment, a certain formula has usually settled in. In the case of Disney’s hit Pirates of the Caribbean movies, such by-now familiar aspects include a complex plot steeped in legendary pirate lore, a rogues’ gallery of mythical and/or magical characters, enough double crosses and double-double crosses to make your eyes cross, and plenty of swashbuckling stunts and special effects spectacle.
All that, as well as Johnny Depp’s swarthy, swishy Captain Jack Sparrow, are on hand in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, in theaters now. Gone are original trilogy director Gore Virbinski and lovebirds Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. In their place are Academy Award nominated director Rob Marshall (of the glitzy and gritty musicals Chicago and Nine fame) and a love interest for Captain Jack himself, played by Oscar winning actress Penélope Cruz.
But even with this mixture of old and new blood, On Stranger Tides is curiously lacking in excitement, as if we’ve all rode this E ticket too many times to care much any more.
This Pirates sure tries though, beginning promisingly with a quest to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. Apparently, everyone is out to find it, including the entire Spanish armada and England’s royal navy, somehow now commanded by a now peg-legged Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Also in hot pursuit: the infamous Blackbeard (Deadwood’s Ian McShane), joined by his feisty long-lost daughter Angelica (Cruz), who naturally shares a tumultuous past with our Jack.
Fulfilling the “creature quotient” this go round is a school of (literally) man-hungry mermaids, needed plot wise to complete the ritual of eternal youth. With seagull-like shrieks and piranha-like teeth, these gals are a far cry fromThe Little Mermaid (and a chief reason why this film is rated PG-13... they’re scary!). An “Ariel and Eric”-type love story -- between a young captive mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and a handsome missionary man (newcomer -- and future Prince Charming -- Sam Claflin) -- is tacked on, presumably to fill the “young lovers” gap left by the absence of Bloom and Knightley.
Also thrown in the mix are some “zombiefied” henchmen, a shrunken Black Pearl and Gibbs (Kevin McNally), Captain Jack’s second in command and the only other holdover from the first three Pirates movies (we miss you, Ragetti and Pintel!). Sharp-eyed viewers will also note a nod to the classic Disneyland attraction that inspired all this (think treasure) as well as a couple of star cameos (one’s a dad, the other’s a Dame).
So why, with all this, isn’t On Stranger Tides more fun? Several reasons actually, chiefly its convoluted story, a legacy carried over from the franchise’s previous installments. (And it doesn’t help that a lot of the exposition is delivered in the midst of loud action sequences and/or by heavily-accented supporting players.) Weak characterization is also to blame. For example, we are told that Blackbeard is “the pirate that all other pirates fear”, but we sure never see that with McShane’s rather bland performances (I’ll take Peter Ustinov in Disney’sBlackbeard’s Ghost instead). There is also an extreme (and extremely odd) lack of chemistry between Cruz and Depp that makes their many banter-heavy scenes drag. In fact, the whole movie drags. At 137 minutes, it is the shortest of the four films but sure feels like the longest.
On Stranger Tides proves that it is high time these Pirates were put in dry dock.
Toon Talk Rating: C
- Lightning McQueen returns (with Mater in tow) for Pixar’s Cars 2 (Disney, June 24).
- Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood… Winnie the Pooh is back in theaters July 15.
-- Kirby C. Holt
-- Logos by William C. Searcy, Magic Bear Graphics
Kirby is a lifelong Disney fan and film buff. He is also an avid list maker and chronic ellipsis user ... In addition to his Toon Talk reviews, Kirby is the creator of Movie Dearest, a blog for movie fans.
Took Talk: Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt is posted whenever there's something new to review.
The opinions expressed by our Kirby C. Holt, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.
-- Posted May 24, 2011