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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides  (3-D)

Just as the legendary swallows return to Capistrano on schedule each year without fail, so, it seems will a certain Sparrow.  That’s Captain Jack Sparrow, of course.  Yes, this particular Jack is back for a fourth romp as the rascally rake in earrings and boots and bandanna.

This time around Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is recruited by his own impersonator, Angelica (Penelope Cruz) to join the crew of a ship whose mission is to find the Fountain of Youth.  There’s a remnant of a map, of course, which shows the way that starts off in Sparrow’s hands but doesn’t stay there.

Concurrent quests for the fabled fountain are launched from Spain and England, the latter country’s King George II (a very porcine Richard Griffiths) appointing Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to captain its royal ship.  Barbossa’s now a privateer in a British naval uniform.  He and Sparrow have a rivalry which causes them to pirouette in an antagonistic tango for most of the film.

Sparrow finds that he’s been drugged and duped into joining the notorious Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) crew and that Angelica is the fearsome pirate’s daughter.  Angelica is also an old flame for which Sparrow confesses having “stirrings” for, always a complication in a competitive quest like this.

Everyone has their own reasons for accessing the properties of the fountain.  Endless youth and years await anyone who can unlock its power. The required ritual needs a mermaid’s tear and two of Ponce De Leon’s silver chalices.  No one said it would be easy, especially Hollywood, so there are plenty of special effects to behold along the way, although 3-D should not have been one of them.

The crew is full of salty sea dogs and a preacher named Philip (Sam Claflin) who serves as the moral compass of the vessel.  Blackbeard is a cruel, murderous outlaw, putting the entire crew, especially his own daughter, in harm’s way in order to reach the fountain and perform the required longevity ritual.

Mermaids are lured and one is captured.  Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and Philip develop and inter-species romance, but that’s a mere side story, good only for a tear.

Like any good prizefight there are title bouts, with different opponents squaring off as both adversaries and allies.  Here, it’s Sparrow vs. Barbossa, Sparrow vs.  Angelica, Sparrow vs. Blackbeard, Blackbeard vs. Barbossa, Spain vs. England, and England vs. Sparrow.  If it sounds like Sparrow’s in the middle of everything, he is, getting lots of face time.

Captain Teague (Keith Richards) makes a short cameo and delivers the best line in the movie.  Asked by Sparrow (his son) if he’s discovered the Fountain of Youth, Teague replies, “Does this face look like it’s discovered the Fountain of Youth?”  Maybe not, but there’s plenty of black eyeliner to go around, and it’s not worn by the women.

Johnny Depp has perfected the Teflon pirate in tri-cornered had that always seems to get his way (and get away).  He walks the (quite girly) walk and talks the talk as if he’s in a second, comfortable skin.

Geoffrey Rush, always a shot of adrenaline, seems to relish his role as the turncoat Barbossa, despite a moldy countenance and compromised loyalties.  Penelope Cruz proves she can swash a buckle or two, and Ian McShane puts his menacing blue eyes and rumbling growl of a voice to good use as the deadly Blackbeard.

Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) gains his sea legs with this effort, coming aboard the fourth film in the franchise as an able captain himself.  The cast ricochets off of each other with wit and synchronized interplay, although the film runs a bit long and the 3-D effect only serves to darken the screen as if you’re watching paradise through a dirty lens.

Still, the scenery is lush and fanciful, the fight scenes are well choreographed, and the Jack Sparrow that made such an impression in the very first Pirates movie, emerges again with a cocky, irresponsible persona that somehow manages to captivate rather than alienate both his enemies and the viewer.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a fun, vicarious romp with no consequences, its legend left wide open for Sparrow’s inevitable return, just like the swallows to Capistrano – except you never know when or where – only that he most certainly will.

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