McCoy on Movies: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Movie Review

McCoy on Movies: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Johnny Depp is back for another adventure in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean adventure. Does the film sink or swim? Click here to find out!
"You know love, I'd still rather be here than shooting a sequel to The Tourist!" Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Angelica (Penélope Cruz) wade their way through a rough patch in a scene from director Rob Marshall's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES.
Credit: Peter Mountain ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin R. McNally, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Sam Claflin, Stephen Graham and an aging rock star making another cameo as he did in the last movie


WRITER: Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (screenplay); Tim Powers (novel film suggested by); Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert (characters)
DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall


THE PLOT: The four movie in the series ever since someone got the bright idea to turn a longstanding ride at the Walt Disney company's amusement parks into a feature length film, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides finds a now Will Turner-and-Elizabeth Swann-less Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in a familiar situation ... On trial and being prepared to be hung for his latest array of crimes. Problem is, the London court does not have Sparrow, but his first mate Joshamee Gibbs (Kevin R. McNally), whom the real Sparrow of course plans to rescue in his typical daring fashion.


The plan, as you might expect, backfires of course, which ends up with Jack in the presence of King George (Richard Griffiths, who - albeit briefly - turns in a horribly corny performance as the historical figure). The King wants Sparrow, who is in London attempting to round up a new crew of sailors/pirates, to help lead his forces to a destination where a Spanish fleet is already en route: The famed Fountain of Youth once sought by Ponce de Leon. While Jack already has his fancy set on discovering the mythical place, he has no plans of doing so for the King's Court and flees the scene, leaving Gibbs behind.


But what Jack doesn't count on is the presence of his old arch nemesis Captain Hector Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), who is now not only working for his highness but also missing his right leg. Why is he missing his right leg, you wonder? He was bested by the ruthless pirate known simply as Blackbeard (Ian MacShane), who is also searching for the Fountain of Youth.


Further complicating matters is the presence of Angelica (Penélope Cruz), another figure from Sparrow's past also seeking the Fountain of Youth for reasons much more noble - and potentially fatal - than our favorite rowdy pirate ...


THE TAKE: A welcome surprise upon its initial release, the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was well received by both critics and the general public for its charming characters, humorous moments and intriguing action sequences.


Then they made Dead Man's Chest and At World's End and the franchise Titantic'd itself.


While On Stranger Tides - which of course is also available in 3D and IMAX formats this go round - does much to steer the franchise back on course (pun intended), it has one simple problem it just cannot overcome: Even the most casual fan of the series will be forced to admit it's not as much fun to watch Captain Jack Sparrow anymore as his antics - as are the movies in general - are stretching a bit at this point.


Not only is On Stranger Tides is long (it's over 2 hours in run time), but the first half of the film feels pretty much like the standard adventure we've come to expect at this point, so the proverbial thrill is long gone. Truth be told, The Lonely Island's recent collaboration with Michael Bolton "Jack Sparrow" (which if you are among the last people in America that hasn't seen it yet, can be found here - language NSFW) is arguably more entertaining than this movie.


That's not to suggest On Stranger Tides is all bad, however. In fact, it's kind of decent if you take it just for what it is: A summer popcorn movie that's not really going to add anything to the franchise, but doesn't do it a complete disservice, either. While his character's act is getting a little stale, Depp still gives Captain Jack all the enthusiasm he did when he first took on the role, even if he might noticeably be missing the chemistry he shared with Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom in the first couple of films. While Cruz is not going to make anyone rave about her performance, she does turn in a sustainable effort to keep things moving forward within the film's cannon.


The real stars of the film this go round, however, are Rush as Barbosa and MacShane. Fully committed to their roles, they are by far the two best developed characters and most entertaining characters On Stranger Tides has to offer, stealing nearly every scene they are in separately or together. Likewise, the film offers up a nice subplot in introducing a mermaid named Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and a missionary named Philip Swift (Sam Clafin), the latter of whom is being held captive on Blackbeard's ship. While their relationship could have easily been mishandled, director Rob Marshall - along with the performances offered by Clafin and Bergès-Frisbey - shows a nice bit of restraint and care in developing it into the film's emotional center to balance out the sinister nature of its larger-than-life characters. Marshall likewise does a nice job with many of the film's key moments of plot development, adding a little needed intrigue even when you can tell what's going to happen next.


PARTING SHOT: While there may be life for the franchise after At World's End, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides barely treads enough water to justify another journey with Captain Jack Sparrow and company on the high cinematic seas ... Unless you really just like watching Johnny Depp act like a pirate.



Tabari McCoy -

Tabari McCoy is Cincy Chic's movie critic. You can check out more of his work on his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @tabarimccoy


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