June 9, 2011

Movie Review: The Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides

To borrow paraphrase a comment I saw pass by on Twitter: "Johnny Depp is on auto-pirate." Seems like an automatic line, but I found it to be not only quite clever but quite accurate. Aside from the opening and closing moments Johnny Depp just does not feel like Captain Jack Sparrow through the bulk of the film. Sure, the devil may care swashbuckling is there, the effeminate Keith Richards stuff is there, in short he certainly looks the part, but it just felt flat and lacking, as if he was tired of playing the character. Perhaps he was just bored with the material, now there is my overall reaction to the movie. Boredom.

When the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out it broadsided everyone with not only its success, but its quality. Seriously, who thought that a movie inspired by a roller coaster would be any good? The sequels, shot back to back, were big financial hits, although their quality is a bit more debatable. Personally, I liked them, but to varying degrees. The announcement of a fourth film made me a little excited, I mean, Jack Sparrow is the character that thrust Johnny Depp's talents into the mainstream (and sadly has held him back ever since), so it would be nice to see him don the hat once more.

This fourth outing sees Captain Jack on the hunt for the Fountain of Youth. The journey sees him reuniting with old flame Angelica (Penelope Cruz). Together they man a ship captained by Blackbeard (Ian McShane). To say there is tension on the boat would be an understatement. Not only that, but they have to contend with Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) who now has the backing of the Royal Navy, and a ship of Spaniards. Everyone is intent on their goal.

The journey has them looking for a pair of chalices, once owned by Cortez, and encountering zombies and mermaids along the way. Not to mention some swordplay, mistaken identity, wisecracks, cross dressing, living ships, and big falls along the way. This is to say it has its share of fun, but still lacks that something to put it over the top.

I have to say that I was bored for a lot of this movie. Some of the action bits were fun, but it felt like a big budget movie short on a limited budget. It felt small and constrained when I wanted something more epic. I get the distinct feeling that Jack Sparrow is not enough to carry a movie, or perhaps it is because this fourth go around just does not present him as being as interesting as he once was. There is something about this that feels off.

The characters don't have much life, the story isn't as interesting, and the cleric/mermaid connection made me miss Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. I mean that. Depp was sleep walking and only felt like Jack in the opening and closing moments.

It is not a total loss, it is a fun diversion, but nearly as entertaining as the first three. I will also say that my friends enjoyed it more than I did, although they too felt something was missing. I say see it with reservations. It is summer fun, not summer great.


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Sam Fragoso said...

Very good review!

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