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Movie Reviews
'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides'
(Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush, et al / NR / 123 mins)

Overview: Flamboyant seafarer Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) lands himself in a bit of a bind after being lured onto Blackbeard's (Ian McShane) ship by enigmatic siren Angelica (Penélope Cruz), and forced to seek out the Fountain of Youth. Trapped on the Queen Anne's Revenge with the most nefarious pirate in history, Captain Jack reflects on his past with the elusive Angelica while embarking on his wildest adventure to date.

Verdict: After sinking into self-important tedium with its prior two overstuffed installments, Pirates of the Caribbean seemed destined for permanent burial at sea. And yet the soggy franchise and Johnny Depp's foppish rapscallion return again for On Stranger Tides—to search for the fountain of youth, no less, a quest that Chicago director Rob Marshall (taking the helm from Gore Verbinski) embellishes with the usual gaggle of musty ships-and-sabers tropes and cacophonous CGI.

Captain Jack Sparrow’s limb-flailing shenanigans had already become old-hat during his past outings, so Depp's routine—the look-at-me flamboyance of his trinket-decorated braided hair, flowing scarves, and giant rings, as well as his half-drunken flouncing, lisping, and pratfalling—is no longer a surprise but rather a dreary expectation fulfilled. More astonishing, however, is that even though it does away with its preceding trilogy’s plot-heavy mythology for a supposedly more streamlined stand-alone story, the ensuing tale—in which Jack reluctantly teams with his former flame, Angelica (Penélope Cruz), and her iconic baddie daddy, Blackbeard (Ian McShane), to reach the legendary fountain before English king–employed Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush)—is a familiar mess of rules, rituals, creatures, and chandelier-swinging, sword-clashing pandemonium.

No knowledge of the first three Pirates films is required for this fourth go-around, a merciful development given how severely forgettable the previous convoluted machinations were. More merciful still is that Dull (Keira Knightley) and Duller (Orlando Bloom) have also been jettisoned, their milquetoast fashion-model-pretty amour here replaced by Jack’s spirited love/hate passions for Angelica, a Feisty Spanish Sexpot whose heart the pirate broke years earlier.

The couple’s initial reunion involves Angelica posing as Jack, thereby positing her as his equal, as well as re-establishing Jack’s trademark self-love, a trait Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio’s screenplay attempts to complicate by having the gold-toothed scoundrel eventually confess to having actual “feelings” for Angelica.

The rest, all the rest you can imagine and guess, sorry!