DVD Release Date: October 18, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: May 20, 2011
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action/adventure violence, some frightening images, sensuality and innuendo)
Genre: Action-Adventure, Comedy, Sequel
Run Time: 137 min.
Director: Rob Marshall
Actors: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally, Sam Claflin, Keith Richards, Judi Dench

Beware, movie fans: Sometimes you get exactly what you wish for…

Without a doubt, the second and third installments in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise were loud, overstuffed and didn’t even make a twitch of sense. But after sitting through what’s easily the dullest movie starring the wacky Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, Rango), suddenly more straightforward storytelling seems completely overrated.

If anything, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides should’ve taken a few cues from its predecessors and leaned a little more heavily on the “strange.” After all, it’s sad seeing Jack all dressed up in his pirate garb, eyeliner, dreads, ruffly blouse and all, and basically having nothing to do after the opening scene.

Speaking of which, the first 15 minutes are easily the film’s most inspired and all-too-briefly hint at what could’ve been a successful reboot. With the increasingly dull Will Turner (Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley, Never Let Me Go) out of the picture and a new director with a stylish pedigree to boot (Rob Marshall, Nine), these pirates seemed poised for many more exciting adventures at sea. Trouble is, the journey to the Fountain of Youth (yes, no further plot description is required) just isn’t that much fun.

Clocking in at two hours and 17 minutes, On Stranger Tides may be the shortest Pirates film, but it still feels much, much too long. Not only is the addition of Penélope Cruz (Sex and the City 2) as Jack’s nemesis/love interest a complete bust, especially in the important they-should-have-chemistry department, but poor Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech) who plays Barbossa has been practically relegated to mere comic relief, thanks to having a prosthetic leg that also moonlights as a rum flask.

In fact, the only moments that don’t feel downright labored are the ones where Jack manages to cheat death yet again. Whether he’s swinging from chandeliers, escaping from the rope tied around his neck, steering a cart full of flaming coal or expertly wielding his sword in duel after duel, Marshall has choreographed the action to dramatic, eye-popping perfection. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the moments where Jack’s not channeling his inner action hero, which is basically the other three quarters of the movie’s total running time.

Perhaps sensing there was a lack of excitement, the filmmakers attempt to momentarily rouse the audience from its slumber with some seriously freaky mermaids. Sporting deadly vampire fangs, the inclusion of these sexy creatures in a Disney flick targeted toward the family set is probably the strangest thing about On Stranger Tides. Apparently, these mermaids’ tears are needed to activate the fountain’s “magical powers,” but more than anything, it feels like nothing more than a cheap attention grab. Make no mistake, it’s a jolting turn of events, but not in the way the story really needs.

Truth be told, it’s in these strikingly unimaginative moments where one can’t help missing the off-the-wall creative sensibilities displayed in previous Pirates outings. Sure, they demanded that you check anything resembling logic at the door, but attempting to figure out the method to the madness was far more rewarding than wishing everyone would just walk the plank and stop the misery.

That said, there’s still enough sparkle in Jack—and his crazy antics—to prevent the ship from sailing just yet (and the story definitely leaves that possibility wide, wide open). But if the screenwriters don’t get their act together and feature him in a story that’s worth telling pronto, the Pirates franchise is ultimately bound for shipwreck.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Pirates aren’t pirates without their rum, and they drink lots of it throughout.
  • Language/Profanity: One instance of da--.
  • Sex/Nudity: Some sexual innuendo and discussion of Jack “corrupting” Angelica and then ditching her not long after. There are a few women who sport some gratuitous cleavage at the local watering hole. The mermaids are also very scantily clad—one is topless, but her breasts are mostly obscured from view.
  • Violence: There’s a fairly high body count, but most of the events, including several sword-fighting scenes, are mostly bloodless. Funny enough, the movie’s scariest parts involve the surprisingly vicious, fang-bearing mermaids.
  • Religion: There’s a missionary onboard Jack Sparrow’s ship, and while Philip (Sam Claflin) is admired for his spiritual convictions, no one is really interested in following suit. Philip believes that redemption is available to anyone—well, until he sees Blackbeard’s selfish acts of violence. Later on, Philip falls in love with one of the mermaids and will do anything to make sure that she isn’t murdered. The Spanish army leader is against anyone utilizing the life-extending powers of the Fountain of Youth because he says that God is the only giver of eternal life.
     

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.