Yo ho hum
A couple of weeks ago, Michael Bolton joined Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island for a Saturday Night Live Digital Short called “Jack Sparrow.” In it, Bolton kept interrupting a hip-hop song with obsessive verses about Johnny Depp’s character from the Pirates of the Caribbean series. It was funny, quite catchy, and a nice primer for the latest actual chapter in the tale of the infamous pirate who thinks he’s a member of the Rolling Stones.
The new movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, isn’t half as entertaining as the Bolton-Samberg mash-up. While not as awful as the second film in the series, it pales in comparison to the first and third chapters, and is basically an elaborate excuse for Mr. Depp to cash a check bigger than God’s own money clip. (We all know God’s got a mighty big roll … no problem paying the utility bills up there.)
Confession time: I have grown mighty tired of Depp’s pirate shtick, so I went into this movie with a big strike against it. The teeth, the swaying, the mumbling, the stupid head wrap—I’m pretty much done with this crap. I want to see Depp back in some of those daring projects that made him Depp, and not this cookie-cutter garbage. While I’m at it, I’m tired of Depp and Burton, too. Alice in Wonderland was a joke.
In fact, the best moment in On Stranger Tides doesn’t even include Depp. There’s a scary mermaid sequence that scores some points stylistically and has some chills. Most of the time Depp is onscreen, he’s just going back to the well, slurring his dialogue, and thinking he’s far more amusing than he actually is.
If I was in a movie theater showing another Pirates movie, and my arm was stuck between a boulder and the seat with nothing but a dull utility knife to free me, it’s a safe bet I would watch the movie and not saw my arm off. That would be stupid. I would be in a movie theater, and somebody would eventually come along and get the damned boulder off of me. But I would throw my utility knife at the screen, and of this I can assure you!
The plot involves some nonsense with the Fountain of Youth. Sparrow winds up on the ship of the legendary Blackbeard (Ian McShane), who’s trying to beat a bunch of regal Spaniards to the Fountain. The trip includes a dull romantic teasing with Blackbeard’s alleged daughter, Angelica (Penelope Cruz). Angelica is to Jack Sparrow what Marion was to Indiana Jones in the original Raiders. He had a fling with her when she was young and left her even though he really, really liked her, blah, blah, blah.
As for Blackbeard, he’s a far less imposing villainous character than Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones or even Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa, who plays a big part in the new film. (I’m also tired of Rush’s pirate talk … it’s definitely starting to grate.) It’s hard to beat the octopus face that Nighy had helping him in the sinister category, and the screenplay here does little to establish Blackbeard as a force to be reckoned with. I will give props to the art director who concocted his menacing boat. It’s far more interesting than the person captaining it.
The aforementioned mermaids appear in the film’s best scene, where some sad sailors are used as bait by Blackbeard to attract the beautiful sea creatures. These mermaids are not cousins to Darryl Hannah’s finned one in Splash. They act all cute until you get close, then flash vampire teeth and drag you down into the depths. It’s scary.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is further proof that Disney got it right with the first installment, and probably should’ve stopped with that one (which, of course, they wouldn’t do because of the millions to be minted).
Since chapter one, the movies have mostly been what I feared the franchise would be in the first place: a lifeless riff on an amusement park ride that is far more entertaining than most of the movies based upon it.