Arrr! Thar be Pyrates!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3-D
Rating (out of 5 stars):  ***


"If you sneak around this way into Hollywood, Penny, the immigration guys aren't likely to catch you..."

I should share my belief upfront that, apart from being one of DisneyWorld’s most memorable attractions, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean theme park ride is more engaging than any of the cinematic attractions it has spun off. I’ve found the films  from the word Go to be smug, self-indulgent. overlong wallows that aren’t half as smart or amusing as they assume themselves to be. And yet despite the fact that franchises generally deteriorate with each subsequent sequel I found this latest rum-soaked outing, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, to be the best of the series. (By the way, a brief sequence featuring co-star Penelope Cruz, at the very end of the closing credits, suggests that there is yet another sequel on the way…)

Johnny Depp either had the good sense to reel in his own performance or director Rob Marshall persuaded him to do so. But whatever the cause, Captain Jack Sparrow is positively subdued; at least by comparison with his flamboyant flourish in the debut Pirates of the Caribbean picture. It’s long been rumoured that Depp based his over-the-top characterisation of Captain Jack Sparrow upon Keith Richards, and this time, almost by way of confirmation, Keith Richards has been brought in for the tiniest but most amusing cameo to play Sparrow’s dad, Captain Teague. And, I might add, to contribute one of the movie’s funniest lines.

The plot hinges upon a “fountain of youth”, which is quite confusing, as it’s more of a fountain which drains life from one individual to give to another. Be that as it may…

This is the first movie of the franchise to be released in 3-D, and the 3-D looks pretty damn handsome. It put me in mind of the Amazon sequences from the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), with, of course, more contemporary and computer-aided colour touches. The dialogue bubbles along merrily, the action scenes don’t go on forever (as they tend to do in the Pirates movies preceding this), and we even have Richard Griffiths (as King George) thrown in  for good measure. Fun, as the cliché would have it, for the whole family. Oh, and by the way: look out for the Jolly Roger atop the Sleeping Beauty castle in the Disney opening logo; a cute touch!


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