Strange Days – Well, I never thought it go this far. But, four films and $3 billion dollars later, this series is on its way as becoming quite the juggernaut. And at the helm is none other than Johnny Depp, who by this point might as well be known as Jack Sparrow.  I mean, that kind of success certainly supports such a ridiculous notion, so to think this fourth installment dubbed “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” would be anything short of a “big deal” would be an understatement, to say the least.

As the tide turns..we find out loyal and quite rigid master commander and captain Jack Sparrow looking for an impersonator {later unveiled as Angelica (Penelope Cruz)}, making waves around London dressed in full Jack Sparrow gear searching for a crew to go on a mission to find the Fountain of Youth.  As the tale was told, this so-called Fountain of Youth would extend life, if a series of steps were followed.  The first step was to find and locate two silver chalices that once belonged to Ponce de Leon and that one of these chalice’s must contain the tear of a mermaid.  Whoever would drink out of the chalice with the tear would live longer while the person who drinks for the chalice without the mermaid’s tear would die within minutes.  Talk about a tough test, but one the Spanish and British were desperately seeking to attempt, no matter what it took. And that’s where Jack and his fellow pirates came in, as very few knew the high seas like Jack Sparrow and very few could lead a mission into the unknown like Jack Sparrow. So, naturally he was called upon to help fulfill this prophecy, only the deeper he dove into the tale, the harder it became to recognize the enemy leading to a surprisingly fulfilling, yet predictable conclusion.

Who was in it? Once you reach a fourth installment, all bets are off on who is still around, but obviously characters like Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa will not change faces.  So, if I can give the producers one thing, it’s that they have made sure Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush are happy, as this series would not have made it this far without each of them, especially Depp.  Sure, Depp might not have been a household name before this series, but he is now, proving there’s still room in Hollywood to create an iconic character. And the best part is, Depp loves dressing up, so in many ways Jack Sparrow was who he was meant to play.  In fact, Depp is even on record as saying he would play only this character if he could, so it’s hard to deny the impact this series has had on him and the world.

Because let’s face it, before “Pirates of the Caribbean” came along, Depp was just a name, which as I outlined in my “Did You Know” column recently is a bloody shame. With that said, Depp did have some help in this one, and leading that charge was none other than Geoffrey Rush, who just can do no wrong in my book. Here’s a guy, who you never expect to play this role, but does it with conviction. I like that and frankly would have liked more back and forth between he and Depp, as their two characters were the most enjoyable out of the bunch. Sure, Ian McShane made his impact as Blackbeard and Penelope Cruz confirmed hse still has what it takes to turn some heads, but anyone after that was just filler. That’s no slight on the work they did, its jus the truth for a film that has contains a character such as Jack Sparrow.

Face value at its core – It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that any film based around pirates doesn’t have that high of a ceiling. How could it? But, with that said, one would think some new life could be brought into this series after eight years. I guess that’s for the next one, which is probably already in pre-production.  Who knows, maybe the writer for whatever comes next will grab this series and turn it upside down for the better, as the potential is there for the taking. That’s not to say this installment was all bad, but to write in hundreds of mermaids is overkill when only a few would have done the trick, especially when a love story is brought in like it as here.  That’s unfortunate, because at the core, this story is not all that bad. Yes, it was a little sloppy at times, but the premise was at least better than what we have seen the last two times around.  And that of course is despite all the wasted moments that seem to consume this series each time we have a new installment. I guess producer Jerry Bruckheimer  requires his director’s to at least waste some time, because for the life of me, I can’t understand why they go to such lengths with some of these side stories. And I’m sorry, if you’re going to throw this whole Fountain of Youth angle into the mix, let’s do a little more with it. To see it all come to a head without really any background or direction is irritating, which surprised me coming from a director like Rob Marshall. Despite all that, it’s hard to rip this film for too much, as it simply is what it is.

Bottom Line – Anyone that sat through the first three parts to this series will sit through a fourth, but for everyone else, this isn’t the worst film.  I mean, it probably has the most action since “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” so that was at least a bonus. I just wish the score would have been tweaked a little more, but I guess you can’t have everything, can you?

C+

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