The best way to go into Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is to think of it as the first film in a brand new franchise; a franchise in which mermaids love men zombies won’t eat you and a Fountain of Youth exists but all laws of logic reasoning and competent storytelling don’t. Although screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio were smart enough to sever the narrative ties to the first two sequels in their franchise’s fourth outing the latest swashbuckling adventure in the series shares most of the same faults its predecessors faced.
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) steps in for Gore Verbinski in On Stranger Tides but you’ll be hard-pressed to find his contributions to the already-flashy film that finds our hero Capt. Jack Sparrow (the inimitable Johnny Depp) on the hunt for the fore mentioned fountain. Of course he’s not the only one looking for eternal life: also in tow are nameless stereotypical Spaniards the English crown headed by a reformed Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Blackbeard a ruthless pirate who looks and sounds a lot like Ian McShane. Their paths cross on numerous occasions as the story scrambles across the map culminating in a splashy battle in a magical meadow where Ponce de Leon’s greatest discovery lies.
Less a cohesive story and more a collection of individual set pieces linked together by nonsensical dialogue and supernatural occurrences the film isn’t all that hard to follow if you don’t strain yourself doing so. The sequence of events collide so conveniently for the characters you can’t help but call the screenplay anything but the result of complacency while the film itself sails so swiftly from point to point it’s actually a waste of time to dwell on plot holes and motives. Disrupting its momentum (which is one of the few things the film has going for it) is an unwatchable romance between Sam Claflin’s missionary Philip and Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) one of a handful of murderous mermaids who do battle with Blackbeard’s crew. Their bland courtship will have you begging for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley to return to the high seas and that’s saying something.
The all-female fish people are one of a few additions to the Pirates world but their effect on the film is negligible outside of being the impetus for the coolest action sequence in the picture and perhaps the most unnerving of the series. The others include Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard’s busty daughter Angelica and Stephen Graham as shipmate Scrum. The former feels out of place among the cartoony happenings but provides much needed sass while the latter fills in for Kevin McNally’s Gibbs for much of the film and is a pleasure to watch for some hammy comedic moments.
As always however this is Depp’s show and he continues to put a smile on my face with his charisma and theatrical presence. Even though he’s operating on autopilot throughout you can’t help but marvel at his energy and enthusiastic output as he literally fuels the fun in the film. The same can be said of Rush who’s given a meatier and more significant arc this time around. He trades quips with Depp as if they were a golden-age comedy duo and they remain the most appealing attraction in the franchise. Though he brings an undeniable sense of danger to the picture I was sadly underwhelmed by McShane’s Blackbeard a character with such a domineering reputation and imposing look he should’ve been stealing scenes left and right. Instead I felt he phoned his performance in though that could’ve been the result of Marshall’s indirection.
No better than the genre-bending original but a slight improvement over Dead Man’s Chest and At Worlds End On Stranger Tides suffers centrally from lack of a commanding captain. Marshall’s role is relegated to merely on-set facilitator or perhaps liaison between legions of talented craftspeople that make the movie look so good. Whatever vision he had for this venture if he had a unique take at all is chewed up and spit out by the engines of the Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster factory rendering the film as mechanical as the ride from which it is based.
Top Story: Billy Joel in Yet Another Car Crash
One wonders if Billy Joel might need a refresher course at driving school. Slightly injured but mostly embarrassed, the singer/songwriter was involved in his third car accident in two years on Sunday when he lost control of his car on a rain-slicked road and banged into a house in Nassau County, New York, The Associated Press reports. The accident occurred at about 4 p.m., when Joel, driving a vintage VW bug, crashed through a row of bushes and banged into a small beige home one block from the beach. The singer suffered a small cut on his hand but refused medical attention, AP reports. "He seemed embarrassed that he lost control of the car," witness Thomas Phillips Jr. told AP. "He said, 'I can't believe I got in another accident.' He was just going out to get a pizza." There was no evidence of alcohol or drug involvement and Joel was not suspected of any crime, Nassau County police spokeswoman Joan Eames told AP. After his second accident in June 2002, Joel checked himself into a rehabilitation center for substance abuse.
Johnson's Company Files For Bankruptcy
Don Johnson's company, Timber Doodle Glade Equity Venture LLC, which holds title on the actor's Woody Creek ranch in Aspen, Colo., filed for Chapter 11 April 14, AP reports. The bankruptcy filing follows a lawsuit brought by City National Bank of Los Angeles in March, asking the court to allow the ranch to be auctioned to collect $930,000 Johnson owes the bank. Johnson's publicist, Elliot Mintz, told AP the actor is refinancing the ranch and the bankruptcy filing will stave off creditors until Johnson can get the financing he needs.
Stone Gets Kudos From Lesbian Group
Actress Sharon Stone will receive the National Center for Lesbian Rights Spirit Award for her support of gay and lesbian civil rights, including helping to raise millions of dollars for AIDS research, AP reports. "Sharon Stone has a very long history of leadership and involvement with volunteer groups," Ruth Harris, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based center told AP. "We're honoring her for a whole range of things over a many year period."
Knight Released From Prison
After serving 10 months for violating his parole, rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight was released from a California prison Thursday, Reuter reports. A state parole panel had sent Knight back to prison on Aug. 4 for his second parole violation in a 1997 assault conviction after he punched a parking attendant outside a Hollywood nightclub last summer. Knight, 39, also announced Monday that he plans to produce a hip-hop album to benefit financially troubled families of soldiers in Iraq by Christmas, Reuters reports.
Cosmetics Maven Lauder Dies
Estee Lauder, who created one of the world's largest cosmetic companies and a $10 billion empire, died Saturday in New York from cardiopulmonary failure, Reuters reports. She was 97.
Role Call: Sykes Joins Monster, Locklear Steps Into Mother Role, Biggs in Guy X
Comedian Wanda Sykes has joined the cast of Monster-In-Law, starring Jennifer Lopez as a woman who is set to marry the perfect guy (Michael Vartan)--until she meets his mother (Jane Fonda). Sykes will play Fonda's wisecracking assistant…Speaking of mothers, Heather Locklear is set to play one to Hilary Duff in the romantic The Perfect Man. Duff plays a teenager who is trying to find the best mate for her single, romantically challenged mom. Chris Noth and Mike O'Malley also have been cast in the Universal Pictures project…American Pie's Jason Biggs has signed on to star in the dark (and cold) comedy Guy X. Set in 1979 as Ronald Reagan is gearing up his presidential campaign and the Cold War is entering its endgame, the film focuses on a hapless American soldier transferred by clerical error to the Qangattarsa base in the Arctic, and unable to escape because he no longer officially exists.