Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean 4
May 22, 2011
Johnny Depp may never play anyone else as well as he does Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack Sparrow, to be precise. In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, he does what only Depp can do: make a Disney movie cool. Not that the entire film is about Depp, just the best parts.
It’s not about some ghostly-cursed pirates who took someone else’s gold, not about some ship-squeezing Kraken, not about some octopus-faced undead guy with no heart, but about Captain Jack Sparrow and his efforts to keep his hat, his compass, and ship. Unlucky for him, his ship the Black Pearl has been captured and placed, magically, in a bottle upon the dark and evil Black Beard’s ship.
So Captain Jack’s main quest is to recover his Pearl. In between the opening credits and the end resolution is this story with the returning Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), a new feisty damsel (Penelope Cruz), the afore-mentioned Black Beard (Ian McShane), some Spaniards, a swarm of deadly mermaids, and an evangelical fellow trying to save everyone’s souls. (Which of these doesn’t belong?)
The evangelist aside, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides may well be the sunniest of the Pirates franchise. After a compulsory review of the first three installments, I was very nearly pirated out. Happily, Number 4 held the promise of Penelope Cruz, and, as expected, she carried it as sensibly as she carried the baby with whom she was pregnant during the entire making of the film.
By the way, Cruz and Depp make for a much more charismatic couple than the former Elizabeth Swann/Will Turner match featured in Pirates 1-3. Blasphemy, I know, but Keira Knightley was getting to be so orange from all the self-tanner that Orlando Bloom couldn’t possibly fake liking her anymore. Besides, the two married in film number 3, and Disney writers know that all good stories end after marriage.
Returning to the Pirates franchise after a too-long hiatus is a sense of humor. With all the battle scenes in numbers 2 and 3, perhaps director Gore Verbinski just couldn’t squeeze any wit in. As director of the first three Pirates films, Verbinski jumped ship on number 4, leaving it to Rob Marshall, the guy who directed Chicago and Nine (both musicals). Thankfully, graciously, there is but a bit of singing in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Singing necessary to the plot, because, after all, how else do you summon those wily mermaids?
Even if one had managed to escape the ubiquitous Pirates phenomenon until now, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides stands on its own legs as a pretty well made movie, complete with a little cross-dressing, black magic, and, well, pirating!
This installment is more concise and direct than the former two, avoiding expeditions to the underworld and Singapore, avoiding intricate tales of woe and suffering, and instead giving people something fun and adventurous, which is what any film based off a theme park ride should be. See it for a few good laughs and because Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp are pretty.