Pirates of the Caribbean 4

Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz
Runtime: 137 mins
Rating: ***

Just when you thought a storyline had finally been milked of all it’s worth, Disney reminds us all yet again that if it makes money, it can also make as many sequels as it wants. This is the vague feeling one gets when watching Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, although it cannot be denied we’re kind of secretly gleeful at seeing more swashbuckling, maritime mayhem and nonchalant one-liners.

Johnny Depp’s perpetually swaying Captain Jack Sparrow is determined on finding the mystical Fountain of Youth. However, the notorious pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter (Penelope Cruz), the Royal Navy under Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa – who’s recently turned to king and country – and even the Spanish are all searching for the very same thing.

With a memorable guest appearance by Judi Dench, eerie mermaid battles, and many improvised evasions of capture à la Jack Sparrow, the 4th installment has lodged itself on middle ground. Funnier and better paced than Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, yet with poorer CGI and an even heavier dependence on Depp’s screen presence, the film seems to have accepted the fact that it cannot surpass Curse of the Black Pearl, and will not try to compensate by bumping up the epic-factor: emerging all the better for it, really.

The performances of Depp and Rush are fully in character as usual. Cruz is easily overlooked, failing to hold her own within a male cast. As for the new starstruck lovers – a hunky priest and an angelic mermaid – they are little more than eye-candy for the audience. Overall, though, all of this is held together passably by Hans Zimmer’s great score, the straightforward plot and fresh humour, making for a thoroughly entertaining but rather forgettable addition to the franchise.

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