by Kevin Bowen on May 20, 2011

in Film

Post image for Movie Review: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (nationwide)


The thing about Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – if anyone still cares – is that it’s an improvement for the series. But that’s just it…no one still cares.

Of course, the box office will argue with me. A disturbing number of dollars will pile into the bank accounts of Disney, Jerry Bruckheimer, and new Pirates director Rob Marshall this weekend. Thousands of multiplex zombies will show up out of some weird sense of obligation and need to see the next big thing that’s really the old big thing reheated.

For the first time in the sequels, Johnny Depp himself actually seems to care again. There’s a sparkle in his eye that’s been missing. Several of the action sequences require deft physical slapstick comedy, particularly a fun chase through London that starts in Buckingham Palace.

Penelope Cruz definitely cares, which is a lot more than we could say for Keira Knightley. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe the beautiful Spaniard has been in a blockbuster previously. So, finally set loose as the first mate on the evil Blackbeard, she brings the same sort of relish that Cate Blanchett brought to the last Indiana Jones. She also creates a sexy edge that’s been wholly absent from previous voyages.

But the sailor’s yarn of Jack Sparrow’s quest for the Fountain of Youth is bedeviled by the way it uses its action beats as a crutch. The attention deficit disorder-inspired chases, swordfights, etc.,  go off on a tight schedule, and become increasingly less effective by repetition. We can feel the way that modern Hollywood executives are held hostage by their fear of the American teenager’s attention span. They don’t need to be memorable so long as they are distracting.

If this were the second Pirates film, rather than the fourth, it might get a pass as the good ship of summer fun. But coming so late in the series, it just seems like more of the same.

kevinbowen @

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
rated PG-13
now playing nationwide

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