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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.89%
Worth A Look: 2.63%
Average: 26.32%
Pretty Bad31.58%
Total Crap31.58%

4 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
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by William Goss

"Yo Ho Hum"
3 stars

There is a scene towards the tail end of 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' that sums up the franchise’s initial appeal and eventual downfall. Three characters are at a stand-off: one wields a sword, while two others hold objects critical to the climax. The sword gets tossed skyward, and everyone swaps McGuffins. In the moment, it’s an amusing exchange, but the actual ratio of plot devices to unsheathed swords remains unfortunately tipped towards the former in the wake of one seriously winning blockbuster and its increasingly bloated sequels.

Yes, the prospect of old-school swashbuckling is once again sabotaged by the screenwriters’ determination to have our characters pursue countless trinkets and hold endless conversations along the way. Gore Verbinski is out of the director’s chair, more content to take star Johnny Depp along for the lively Rango, but Depp couldn’t resist the lure of another paycheck or three. As such, his once charming jester finds himself thrust into the leading man role and no fresher for it.

His Capt. Jack Sparrow is after the Fountain of Youth, just as teased at the end of At World’s End, but this being the Pirates series, he can’t simply race against the notorious pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), the voluptuous Angelica (Penelope Cruz), the traitorous Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, who also likes money) and the Spanish Armada to find it. No, there must be an entire, heretofore unknown ritual attached, requiring McGuffins to be fetched and forcing tenuous alliances to be formed. And there must also be a fledgling relationship on the margins between the God-fearing Philip (Sam Claflin) and man-fearing mermaid Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), in an effort to replace the now-absent Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.

The who’s and why’s hardly matter; all that counts is Sparrow showing up and doling out a handful of saucy quips. Once a hero, always a scoundrel, Depp’s performance in this once Oscar-nominated role now feels reduced to routine, and the same could be said for the set pieces. We’re offered a sluggish first-act carriage chase through the streets of London, a mildly interesting mermaid attack/excuse for a trailer-worthy explosion in the middle, and a fairly unremarkable swordfight during the climax. Of all people, Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine) is now at the helm, and each action beat reeks of the difference between a man who knew how to choreograph fights and a man used to choreographing musical sequences.

It’s all by-the-numbers, and it’s all here because of the numbers; Verbinski, Bloom and Knightley aside, no one really says “no” to a billion-dollar franchise, and the hope here is clearly that audiences won’t be able to refuse either. 'On Stranger Tides' isn’t aggravatingly bad, but it is aggressively mediocre, enough so to make one pine for the distinct showdowns of the past two films, though not for the dense plotting. The suggestion of course is that more adventures are in store past this one, and while this Sparrow may keep on flying, something tells me that his series won’t ever soar quite like it used to.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 05/23/11 16:56:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2011 Festival de Cannes series, click here.

User Comments

3/03/19 Craptain Jacques Sbarro Yo... ho... yo... ho... (yawn) a pirate's... life... for... me (zzzz) 2 stars
2/24/13 Cockycook Very good 5 stars
5/06/12 Charles Tatum Why does the cast seem so distracted? 3 stars
12/24/11 debbie hodgdon love the mermaid parts!!! 5 stars
7/22/11 Brian so-so addition to the great original trilogy. 3 stars
6/12/11 Rich Boring! 2 stars
6/02/11 Chris White Prefer the first 3. But this one wasn't all bad. 3 stars
6/01/11 sreekiran just a bit boring and predictable screenplay 2 stars
5/28/11 Shaun A I'll buck the trend and say I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure. 4 stars
5/25/11 Aaron S Better than the first 2 sequels. But should be the end for the franchise. A great end note. 5 stars
5/23/11 Ming The story is boring..Its stupid to continue this great epci 2 stars
5/22/11 palmer555 I totally agree. I found myself checking the time more than once during the film. 2 stars
5/21/11 Quigley A prime example of a missed chance. Not terrible, but the series is losing steam. 3 stars
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  20-May-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-Oct-2011


  DVD: 18-Oct-2011

Directed by
  Rob Marshall

Written by
  Ted Elliott
  Terry Rossio

  Johnny Depp
  Penélope Cruz
  Geoffrey Rush
  Ian McShane
  Gemma Ward
  Judi Dench

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