Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has more in common with Shadow of the Thin Man than other summer blockbusters. Like a lot of TV shows, people sometimes keep returning to franchises not because of the new stories but just to see their beloved character again. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow is now one of those characters.
Now the series is back for a stand-alone adventure. Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly weren’t invited back because their story was done or whatever. Instead we have Penelopé Cruz and Ian McShane as the Blackbeard family who need Jack to take them to the Fountain of Youth.
It wouldn’t be a Pirates film if the plot wasn’t unnecessarily complicated. They are also chased by Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa (now with one fewer leg) who wants revenge on Blackbeard and the Spanish who also want the Fountain. Throw in too many pitstops to satisfy the ritual for the Fountain including chalices from Ponce de Leon’s ship and a mermaid’s tear and you have an adventure.
Of course you may be wondering how can cups from Ponce de Leon’s ship be part of a ritual to use the Fountain of Youth since he was famous for searching for the Fountain and never getting there. How was the Fountain used before him? This is the crux of the franchise. Aside from the first one and most of the second, these films don’t make any sense.
This one is better than the third one because they kept the plotholes down to just two, from what I could count. There are plenty of scenes where characters lie or do stupid things for no apparent reason. There is a romance so annoying and contrived people will be begging for Bloom to return. The whole film is about 20 minutes too long.
Yet, I had a good time while watching it. Rob Marshall isn’t as equipped to handle action scenes as Gore Verbinski, but seeing Jack Sparrow dashing through London avoiding a league of guards is still fun. The humor is still charming. The film is very watchable and not offensive. When things don’t make sense, they’re at least attempting to be entertaining. It isn’t an onslaught of editing or product placement. Like Shadow of the Thin Man, it’s just another entry that will never be as great as the first one, but an enjoyable entry into the series that captures the likable spirit of the previous ones.