Picture from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Overall C+

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his band of menacing buccaneers are back in action, hunting for the elusive Fountain of Youth. But along the way, they encounter terrifying zombies and mythical mermaids as well as a ruthless woman from Jack's past (Penélope Cruz) who forces him aboard the famed ship of the fearsome pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane).

Violence D+
Sexual Content B-
Profanity B
Substance Use C

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) still staggers and lurches from one tight spot to another. His father Captain Teague (played by the iconic musician Keith Richards) makes another brief appearance to offer some sage advice to his son. And swordfights are as common as seagulls on a fish-strewn shoreline. But the franchise seems to be missing its swagger. The loss of key characters and the previous director Gore Verbinski, along with less computer animation, may contribute to the new flavor of this sequel.

Rumor suggests that Jack owns a map plotting the location of the famed Fountain of Youth and that he is hiring a crew to set sail for it. While Jack does own the map, he isn’t the one offering employment and knows nothing about a planned voyage. Intent on clearing up this case of identity theft, Jack slips into a pub to confront the imposter. However, before he knows it, he’s been shanghaied for service under the command of the nefarious pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his cunning daughter Angelica (Penélope Cruz) who are desperate to find the life-extending waters.

Blackbeard, whose impending death has been predicted, isn’t the only one speeding toward the elusive destination. Jack’s old first mate and rival, Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), has forsworn his plundering ways in exchange for a post (and ship) in King George’s (Richard Griffiths) navy. Affecting British civility, Barbossa drives his crew to follow in the wake of Blackbeard’s boat, along with a trio of Spanish galleons.

In the film’s opening scenes, Jack makes an audacious escape from the clutches of King George before smacking blades with the imposter in a tightly choreographed scene reminiscent of the swordplay between Jack and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) in the original Pirates’ movie. But beyond that the script often stalls, wandering off into side stories that have little to do with the main action. Without the comedic relief of the frequently duped English soldiers, Mullroy and Murtogg (Anges Barnett, Giles New) or the freebooters Pintel and Ragetti (Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook), the script turns to sexual banter between Jack and Angelica to garner laughs. Yet despite the additional innuendo, the dearth of sexual tension or even an engrossing romance becomes obvious.

With an abundance of flasks (some ingeniously hidden), these sailors tipple imprudent amounts of liquor, which appears to buoy up their nerve when it comes to waging war on their fellow adventurers. Unfortunately these conflicts result in the death of many crewmen who are run through with swords, stabbed with knives or shot at point-blank range. As well, mermaids are lured by song and light to become prey for the sailors.

While Depp continues to deliver his lines with deadpan skill and panache, this adventure feels a little tiresome (and less family friendly than even the previous outings). Apparently, without a beneficial injection from the mythical fountain of youth or an everlasting elixir, even franchises can’t expect to outlast a reasonable life expectancy. Maybe it’s time this one was put to rest gracefully.

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