“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and intense action-adventure sequences.
Running time: 137 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Pirates of the Caribbean has proven to be an enduring, review-proof franchise, thanks to the derring-do and roguish charm of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and the way in which his swashbuckling adventures manage to capture the imagination of ‘tweeners.
“On Stranger Tides,” the fourth installment in the popular series, does not disappoint in this regard, as it again immerses the peripatetic protagonist in the sort of special effects-driven, seafaring saga the kids in that target demographic relish.
This episode opens in a London courtroom, where we find Jack hatching an elaborate plan to save his loyal First Mate Gibbs (Kevin McNally), from the hangman’s noose. After a daring jailbreak, however, the pair are apprehended and dragged before King George II (Richard Griffiths) who spares their lives on the condition that they participate in an expedition to find the fabled Fountain of Youth for England before explorer Ponce de Leon can do so for Spain.
The hitch is that since Jack’s ship, the Black Pearl, was lost at sea, he will have to set sail on the HMS Providence, a privateer frigate under the command of his archenemy, Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Rather than suffer such an indignity, Jack mounts another escape, only to end up in league with the legendary Blackbeard (Ian McShane) aboard Queen Anne’s Revenge after falling under the spell of the ruthless outlaw’s daughter, Angelica (Penelope Cruz).
At this juncture, “On Stranger Tides” morphs into a cutthroat competition pitting Barbossa and Blackbeard’s vessels against each other in a race for the aforementioned Fountain of Youth. En route, the participants must deal with a host of ordeals ranging from seductive mermaids to magical chalices, distractions rather reminiscent of the tests of Ulysses in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.
Of course jaunty Jack prevails in the end. Just be sure to sit through the closing credits for a hint about what to expect from the next sequel.