It’s official – the fourth installment into this high-octane, action adventure franchise – has nearly lost all wit and charm. To boot, “Tides” has been converted to 3D – projecting a dimmer picture and more importantly, stealing your hard earned money.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) embarks on yet another extravagant journey – this time his mission is to find the Fountain of Youth. His quest is soon detoured when past-lover, Angelica (Penelope Cruz) and her father, Blackbeard (Ian McShane) – an infamous and formidable pirate – force Sparrow aboard. As “Tides” transpires into its prolonged third-act – subplots emerge – including a Minister who falls in love with a mysterious Mermaid – Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) whose sided with the English Monarchy – and Spanish conquistadors who are also apparently searching for the Fountain of Youth. All of this adds up to a convoluted, sluggish – though periodically entertaining endeavor.
What’s surprising is that “Tides” is by famed director Rob Marshall – who’s past efforts include best picture winner, Chicago & the critically acclaimed, Letters of Geisha. Though, you wouldn’t be able to decipher such accolades from “Tides”. He consistently struggles finding a balance with action and comedy.
Johnny Depp still brings that charm and charisma that makes each of these films watchable. Jack Sparrow is one of the most recognizable protagonists of the past decade – and Depp deserves every bit off recognition. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast – in particular Penelope Cruz – who makes Antonio Banderas English sound as fluent as Colin Firth in the King’s Speech – is drastically miscast. A comparison is perhaps not fair – but Knightley brought nuance to her role – and Cruz does everything but. Ian McShane, who plays Blackbeard, is not evil or menacing enough to get frightened over. And even Rush, fresh of his Oscar-nominated performance – feels out of tune.
Still, it’s not the middling performances that drag “Tides” down – it’s the tedious and unfocused script by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot. None of the films in this moneymaking franchise contained a brilliant script – nor did it need to. Because the action was exhilarating and the sarcastic and narcissistic humor was always present– assuring an entertaining time. Sadly, the same cannot be said here.
At the end of the day Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides will still make a bombastic amount of money, and perhaps satisfy a majority of the franchise’s loyal viewers. It is a slight improvement on its unholy predecessor – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – but that’s not saying much. “Tides” doesn’t gain the momentum it needs to be fully enjoyable. The action sequences are second rate – edited in a frame-by-frame fashion that doesn’t exist in this space-time continuum. And all the things we’ve grown to love about the “Pirates” series is missing or at best, diminished.
As for the rumors going around that there will be a fifth “Pirates” picture – well, one can only hope they learn from their mistakes. Because after the fourth film, it has become clearly evident that this franchise is based off a six-minute Disney ride.