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February 19, 2024

Pirates of the Caribbean 4:On a Stranger Rides

By Bernie and Sand Pilarski

Bernie said:

Let's begin with this: this latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean is a fun movie. I enjoyed it. If you asked me if you should go see it, I would say that you could do far worse (I have promised myself that I will not mention Skyline here). But if you were to ask me if this was a good movie, I would have to qualify my answer a bit.

I would have to look at you, and in my best Three Stooges' Curly impersonation I'd say "Gasoline don't taste so good since Prohibition. They ain't so careful like when they used it for making gin."


No one should go to this movie expecting to see the successor to The King's Speech. It just isn't that kind of movie. It is much more like watching one of the 220 (yup, 220) Three Stooges films. I don't know if I saw all of them, but I bet I saw most of them, and Moe slapping Larry is always funny.

On Stranger Tides is one more Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I still like Jack Sparrow, still enjoy watching Barbossa and Gibbs, but I will concede that the series is showing a bit of wear. Surprisingly, Johnny Depp's performance was just a wee bit flat, and the story was a little bit bloated and slow, but if you don't nit-pick too much and you don't have unrealistic expectations, this is a fun movie.

Jack Sparrow finds himself in the middle of a three way race to find the Fountain of Youth. King Ferdinand of Spain has already dispatched the Spanish navy when King George arrests Jack to "enlist" his help in securing English interests. In the King's employ is Jack's old friend/nemesis the pirate Barbossa, who having seen waning prospects of piracy has thrown his lot in with the Royal navy. Jack, feeling too confined by convention to serve the Empire, flees back to the pirates' life. In his search for a ship to command, he stumbles upon an old flame, Angelica, who claims to be the daughter of none other than Blackbeard the Pirate, and who as it turns out, is on a quest for the Fountain of Youth. But this is no partnership, as Angelica has Jack drugged and pressed into service as a mere gob upon her father's ship.

Even as Jack schemes and wriggles his way in and out of alliances, he serves no one's interest but his own, and in the end, Jack demonstrates why he is one of the best loved pirates you've ever heard of.

If I have one criticism of this movie, it is that the script tried to do too much. Too many elements were thrown in and not allowed to properly develop. To be perfectly honest, Blackbeard, well-played by Ian McShane incidentally, was an unnecessary distraction to the story. Too much time was devoted to trying to develop this character instead of exploring the relationship between Sparrow and Angelica which was more central to the story. No offense Mr. Blackbeard, but you could have been any no account pirate with a daughter that Jack had had a relationship with, and then I wouldn't have had to care about you so much. It would have moved the story along a bit.

However, giving credit where credit is due, this story introduces us to a startling vision of mermaids. It takes a while for them to appear in the film, but when they do, they steal the show. The mermaid sequences were worth the price of admission all by themselves, and no, not just because they are pretty young women who make googly eyes at men. I'm hoping these ladies get their own spinoff show.

So you thinking about going? Go ahead. It's fun. At the very least, make sure you rent this one when the DVD comes out.

Sand said:

There was no question about whether or not I would go see Pirates of the Caribbean 4 at its first (2D) showing. Don't be silly, it not only had Johnny Depp, it had Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. I admit I couldn't resist, in spite of some venomous early reviews, and in spite of Pirates of the Caribbean 3, which I enjoyed only when I could get past being annoyed.

I believe that the first thing one has to understand about the PotC franchise is that the first one was based on a (lame) amusement park ride aimed on entertaining children under the age of 10. That the story succeeded at all was due to Johnny Depp's portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow. He changed the face of piracy forever, but that doesn't change the root: it was an amusement park ride.

Amusement park rides are not meant to life-changing experiences, nor to provide you with words that will become timeless classics. Sometimes they will scare you into wetting your pants; sometimes they provide you with a refreshing shower of water on a roasty summer day; and sometimes, they are just there to give you a thrill and a few weightless moments of rattling free-fall to take your mind away from whether or not the checkbook is balanced.

All the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were like that. Throw away two hours of vacuuming the carpet or washing your windows and let the movie screen take you somewhere else, somewhere you remember, that has crashing waves and tall ships under sail! (And Captain Jack Sparrow!)

This one, On Stranger Tides, is no different. It is an amusement park ride, with scary mermaids and precipitous cliffs, and a rush in twisting directions ... put your hands in the air and just let the movie happen.

Captain Jack Sparrow is skulking around London, not only trying to find a ship and crew, but also trying to find out why everyone knows he's trying to find a ship and a crew when he hasn't told anyone that yet. He discovers an impostor, and yes, there is a ship, and yes, there is a crew, and he is press-ganged into serving aboard The Queen Anne's Revenge -- the notorious vessel of wicked Blackbeard.

Blackbeard is in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth, and needs Jack's savvy to find it. But that would be too easy; the English and the Spanish governments are also racing to find Immortality before Blackbeard can. Heading up the English contingent is none other than our old delightful pirate, Captain Barbossa, played to the hilt by Geoffrey Rush.

Do you think that Barbossa would actually abandon piracy for the Crown? Well ...

In fact, I thought that Geoffrey Rush stole the show as Barbossa, out-acting Depp up, down, and sideways. Maybe J. Depp is getting a tiny bit bored with reprising a role -- after all, it isn't like he needs the money or is desperate for acting gigs. Jack Sparrow was almost background for the movie, providing continuity and color to what was Barbossa and Blackbeard's conflict.

The presence of the Spaniards reminded me of the numerous Monty Python skits in which the sudden, uncalled-for appearance of clerics was announced by the shout, "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Maybe that's what they intended, after all.

Penelope Cruz made a nice female presence; she's pretty and the character of Angelica was no needy whiner like so many female roles these days. The side story of Philip and Syrena (the religious man and the mermaid) made me wonder if they might be the basis for a spin off.

Some of the scenes were obviously only shot (or even added) for the 3D craze, which adds nothing whatsoever to the movie. Indeed, it was distracting, as when such scenes appeared, I knew exactly why they were being done, and merely wanted to get on with the story.

All in all, I was happily satisfied with the movie. I will watch it again, far more often than Pirates 3, or even 2, for that matter. Will Johnny Depp keep the franchise alive by doing a Pirates 5? Somehow I doubt it. I think he's off to ride some stranger tides.

Article © Bernie and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-05-23
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