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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Reviewed by Laura Eldred, © 2011

Format: Movie
By:   Rob Marshall (director)
Genre:   Pirates!
Review Date:   June 04, 2011
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

You’ll notice that this review is rather late. I don’t have a good excuse, like being kidnapped by ground-pirates or being held ransom in exchange for a large pile of cheese logs. Instead, I just haven’t quite known what to say.

This movie is fine. It’s reasonably entertaining, though it sacrifices character to action. The movie feels like a sequence of well-choreographed action sequences with filler in between.

There are various plot holes, but they’re unlikely to bother the casual viewer too much. None of this is particularly surprising in your average fun summer movie.

The only one of the film’s shortcomings that actually particularly bothered me was the characterization (or lack thereof) of Captain Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack is one of my favorite Johnny Depp roles. I do love Johnny Depp + gender ambiguity + eyeliner; the combination is likely to produce swooning.

Good thing I don’t generally watch these films while standing above a pit of spikes.

So, you might suspect that Captain Jack and Edward Scissorhands would be near and dear to my, um, heart.

Here, in the fourth Pirates, Captain Jack feels like a series of stereotyped lines and actions—girly running, womanizing, “savvy,” without any heart behind it. The scene with Depp and Keith Richards seemed particularly painful to me, awkward and strange, as if the two didn’t get along personally and it bled over into the scene.

See what you think. But it felt like the writers just cobbled together stuff Captain Jack had already said or done and threw it at Depp. I believe he’s said that he made the film for his kids, who love the movies and the character, which isn’t a bad reason. But there wasn’t much of a performance or a character here.

So, though I don’t mind any excuse to watch Depp parade around in eyeliner, this felt like a missed opportunity. The film has some solid action sequences, but everything else is a bit sloppy, like a sleepy, hungover morning punctuated by urgent trips to the bathroom. It’s not really that bad, but it is that inconsistent.

If you have nothing better to do, go for it. It’s fun, and the action sequences are good. Captain Jack, even a half-assed one, is better than no Captain Jack at all. Savvy?

If you still have nothing better to do, go to the Pirates movie site.

RevSF Staff Writer Laura Eldred prefers a fully-assed Captain Jack.

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