PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES showed more was less in the 4th go-round for Johnny Depp’s flippant freebooter ‘Jack Sparrow’, now minus sparring partners Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, on to other lives. Back for more are Geoffrey Rush (‘Barbossa’), Kevin McNally (‘Gibbs’) and a few hardies, joined this time by Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane. The cast is game, the production design is fastidious, the effects and stunts impressive, the music pulse-quickening, but overall it’s as substantial as candy, plot heavy, just not as involving or exciting as the preceding stand-alone trilogy.
Skipping skipper Sparrow joins formidable former flame ‘Angelica’ (Cruz) and legendary Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard (McShane) on a rush to beat ever-rival Barbossa, now working for the Crown, to find the Fountain of Youth. The Spanish are added to the fray. Much action ensues, as usual. Rob Marshall took over directing, Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot wrote as before, Hans Zimmer was behind the scoring.
JACK: “You walk like a girl.” ANGELICA: “You would know.”
Critics dumped on it, but a good share of the planet’s population faithfully trooped in during 2011, making it 5th in the States and 3rd worldwide, with a gross of $1,045,000,000. Needed as well as wanted, since it cost a gargantuan $410,600,000 to mount (including Johnny Jack’s piratical salary of $55,500,000), making it the most expensive movie ever made, as of mid 2021 still holding firm.
It looks fab, no doubt, shot in Hawaii, the U.K., Puerto Rico and California. The swordfight on the runaway wheel is a good gag. The mermaid attack kicks tail. *
With Sam Claflin, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey (mermaid ‘Syrena’), Stephen Graham, Richard Griffiths (funny bit as King George III), Greg Ellis, Damian O’Hare and Gemma Ward (spooky mer-girl #1). Keith Richards returns briefly as Jack’s old man and Judi Dench proves a good sport with a flash cameo. 137 minutes.
* Flotation Device Dept: producer Jerry Bruckheimer gave casting directors firm orders that actresses auditioning to play mermaids had to have natural breasts. He reasoned: “I don’t think they had breast augmentation in the 1700s, so it’s natural for casting people to say, ‘We want real people.'” Glug! No real argument about fishwitch breaststrokes, but Jerry Bruckheimer saying “we want real people” is Yo-Ho-Ho and Bucket of Chum.