Starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz & Geoffrey Rush
Directed by Rob Marshall
PG-13, 137 minutes
Release date May 20, 2011
Johnny Depp returns as swishy buccaneer Jack Sparrow for the fourth installment of the hugely successful Disney movie franchise based on its enduringly popular theme park ride.
This time around, Capt. Jack finds himself on a quest for the fabled Fountain of Youth, the legendary spring with magical powers that 16th century Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon was supposedly seeking when he “discovered” modern-day Florida.
The plot involves Jack’s nemesis from the three previous movies, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), plus several new characters. Ian McShane smolders as the villainous Blackbeard (Ian McShane), whose zombie crew is managed by his spitfire daughter, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), a wronged woman bearing a romantic grudge against a certain love-em-and-leave-’em swashbuckler.
There’s also an earnest young shanghaied man of the cloth (Sam Chaflin), who falls in love with a mermaid (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) with a streak of kindness that sets her apart from all the other other bewitching, bloodsucking sea temptresses.
Keith Richards, who makes another cameo as crusty Capt. Teague, gets off a great line that riffs on his real-life reputation as a hard-living rock and roll star.
There’s plenty of swordplay, lush on-location tropical scenery, a handful of effective 3-D gimmicks and several elaborately choreographed action sequences, including Sparrow’s dashing escape from British soldiers, a duel that spreads throughout a rum warehouse, and a murderous nautical assault by mermaids.
Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, both along for the first three rides, aren’t part of the cast this time around, giving everything a whiff of freshness.
But after four movies, “Pirates” is beginning to feel a bit like a soggy, waterlogged plank that’s been afloat in the salty sea a bit too long. Capt. Jack has become a caricature, almost a kooky sitcom character that remains the same week after week, season after season, year after year. Depp, pushing 40, isn’t quite the sprite he used to be. The whole franchise seems like it’s settled into a been-there, done-that, jolly-roger rut.
But don’t tell that to Disney, which tags on a brief post-credit coda that hints at yet another movie to come. Perhaps, it suggests optimistically, there’s still some wind, somehow, left in these tattered “Pirates” sails.