At only a few minutes over two hours, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the shortest movie of the based-on-an-amusement-park-ride Disney franchise, and the screenplay is simpler than the convoluted last installment. Shorter, simpler, sounds like an improvement, but damn if the film isn't draggy. As I sat and sat through the action adventure, I found my attention drifting to Hans Zimmer's score. The music never stops, or even eases up, it just keeps underlining and accenting and thundering all over the place. I couldn't decide whether the relentless orchestration was more annoying or amusing - it certainly was interesting.
The flick consists of a string of set pieces mixing action and vaudevillian style comedy - pretty much the kind of feature you'd see on video screens while waiting in line to go on the Pirates of the Caribbean amusement park ride. Nothing wrong with that, but after three films in the series, I was hoping for juicier set pieces with better jokes. The print I saw was in 3D - if you're determined to see the movie, I suggest you seek out a theater showing it in 2D. Don't pay extra for 3D effects that mostly range from being underwhelming to unnoticeable.
Stars Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are missing from On Stranger Tides, along with a number of enjoyable supporting players. This time around, it's Depp, Depp and more Depp, with Johnny Depp continuing to mix the swagger and cool of Keith Richards with the ridiculous self-confidence of Pepe Le Pew for his characterization of Capt. Jack Sparrow. The first 40 minutes or so are devoted to getting the players into their places, which entails - as usual - daring, silly and poorly-staged fights and chases by director Rob Marshall.
The cast splits into teams, with everybody following the trail of Ponce de Leon to locate the legendary Fountain of Youth. Sparrow, now a captain without a boat, spends some time with Capt. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who is aligned with a British ship. He spends far more time on a different ship with the fiery Angelica (Penelope Cruz, who is so much better when speaking in her native language), who turns out to be the daughter of the infamous Blackbeard (Ian McShane, who isn't scary). The Spanish have a boat, too. They stay out of sight most of the time, waiting until late in the game to show up and spoil things for the whole class.
What else do you need to know? There are mermaids. And there's the real Keith Richards, playing Jack's pappy. Richards is working the talk show circuit in support of the production, showing a clip from the movie featuring him. You should know that Richards' entire appearance in the film is only a few seconds longer than the clip.
I just thought of one more thing to tell you. After the film concludes, the credits roll for what seems to be forever and then there is one more brief scene. It shows Penelope Cruz on a tiny island. She wades into the ocean and finds a doll with the likeness of Capt. Sparrow. She smiles. End of post-credits scene. There you go. Now you won't have to hang around for the bonus scene. Better yet, skip seeing this in a theater altogether, secure in the knowledge that it will be frequently aired on basic cable until the end of time.